For years many businesses have treated their IT services and organisation in a reactionary manner. If a department needed equipment, quite often the company would purchase the equipment without thinking about how that new piece of equipment or software fitted into the businesses overall IT strategy.
Over time, patchworked reactionary decisions can lead to IT landscapes that are difficult to manage, maintain, account for, and keep secure. A business knows that something is swallowing money, time and productivity but fails to identify what.
Thankfully IT strategy planning is a method of bringing together an obsfruciated IT department and realigning it with business goals and objectives. It can remove software not meeting business requirements, upgrade hardware, and invigorate an IT structure so that it works for the business instead of against it.
An IT strategy plan may sound like a complex project for IT managers to deploy, but as our blog hopes to show, once IT managers know what they’re doing and how to plan a strategy, they’re well on the way to changing the IT infrastructure’s fortunes.
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An IT strategy, sometimes referred to as an IT strategy plan, acts as a governing document for a businesses IT organisation and objectives. It defines the goals of the IT services, for example to increase productivity, and provides a framework for how to support and achieve those objectives.
The size and scope of an IT strategy plan will vary depending on the size and needs of the company. However in any strategy plan one area must remain consistent: The strategy must align and support the organisation’s overall business objectives. IT cannot work separately from the business, otherwise it fails to provide the right support and assistance necessary. Instead it must function in alignment and provide a way to achieve the mission and goals of the business.
IT strategy plans usually help to achieve agreed initiatives such as:
IT Strategies are made up of core components that focus on the specific areas needed to execute a successful strategy.
Each strategy will be modified in accordance with the needs and size of the business, but most strategies will usually include focus areas such as:
Any IT strategy should be made in alignment with the overall business strategy. IT strategies primarily support business activities by allowing the business to increase its productivity and efficiency and reduce costs through the investment in new technologies.
Implementing changes that do not assist the business could prove harmful to productivity levels of staff for example, especially if their new tech does not function as they need.
Any strategy should have measurable objectives that can display whether or not the strategy is proving effective and helpful. IT strategies are no different and can contain signposts such as key performance indicators (KPIs) to suggest areas for improvement, budgetary models to ensure good investments and balanced operational expenses and goals that will show how the strategy is performing in terms of success.
A roadmap section of an IT strategy should simply outline how the business will get from its current state (A) to the proposed state that the strategy will assist with (B).
Sometimes technology can be expansive with a wide array of options, making it difficult to see what developments can benefit the business, and which will complicate existing processes.
The roadmap section of the strategy can help to guide, focus and govern the choices the business makes when adopting new technology trends and can provide a blueprint of exactly how to achieve the new objective.
IT Governance is similar to IT best practices, and simply refers to the policies and procedures that define how an organisation accepts, controls, evaluates and then deploys new initiatives whilst assessing their quality and managing budget.
In many IT strategies the IT governance section will also identify potential areas for improvement, and any gaps in practices that the company is so far not filling.
The IT services catalogue section is perhaps the most self-explanatory area of a strategy plan. This section identifies the potential catalogue of IT services that align with the business objectives, and presents a plan as to how to use those services to fill current gaps.
Be warned that it is easy for businesses to be overly ambitious here with the plethora of choice, so the services catalogue section may need refining as the strategy builds.
Finally, any new strategy should be communicated across all levels of the business. Significant technological changes, such as those occurring in digital transformations affect everyone across every rung of the organisation’s ladder.
Changes, their effects, benefits and the reasoning behind them should be communicated to all staff and customers, and explained clearly. If there will be downtime, that should also be addressed, alongside regular status updates so that staff and clients can plan for how to prepare for any outages.
What is a digital transformation and how can you plan for one? Click here to find out.
Once you know your components, it’s time to turn that into an actionable plan. But whether you’re new to strategising IT, or an IT expert, knowing exactly where to start can still prove difficult.
So we’ve compiled these five easy steps that any IT manager can use to plan their IT strategy:
If you weren’t sure by the amount of times we’ve mentioned it throughout this blog, the predominant function of any IT strategy is to support the needs of the business.
That’s why outlining the business needs, goals and any high-level objectives is the best place to start, as those will help to define and shape the strategy. If your business doesn’t have a strategy however, as some smaller enterprises tend to not need, IT strategy planners can still clarify the businesses mission and needs by assessing:
Out of all of the steps in creating an IT strategy it is this one that is perhaps most important. Successful organisations have to align their IT services with their overall goals, otherwise they’ll fall short of achieving them.
It’s vital that an IT strategy has a holistic approach. What that means is that everyone, across all levels of the organisation, needs to be clear about who is responsible for delivering it, and who it will affect.
An IT strategy will not be able to be deployed and prove successful within a day. Instead elements of the strategy will need to be rolled out and evaluated, which means that it will affect different business departments and functions in different ways.
This is where communicating with C-level executives, senior management and stakeholders becomes imperative. Consulting with key people involved in all layers of the business will give the strategy better scope because you will learn how they’re utilising the current technology, what their upcoming plans for the future are, and how technical IT changes could support those plans.
These conversations will also give you chance to define the strategy’s schedule. Most strategies are longer term (think 3-5 years) but there are opportunities to review and redefine areas of the strategy more frequently, especially if plans, objectives or goals change.
Compiling all of this information will prove incredibly useful when deciding on a roadmap for implementing the strategy.
Despite their name, new IT strategies do not need to be complete overhauls of old IT infrastructures.
It can be useful at this stage to review the existing IT infrastructure to identify what’s working, and where resources could be upgraded or saved to make use of what is already functioning well.
Assess these areas by evaluating:
Thinking critically about these areas can help to build an IT strategy that is based around resources that already exist to the business. Not only does this save money, it also saves time – especially if a new strategy would have just duplicated or derailed technologies that were already working. Alternatively you may also be able to stay with your existing IT support provider, rather than need to switch to a new one.
A technology architecture is an overview of all of the major software, hardware and other tools the business will be using.
Once this list is complete, the strategy can then expand to resource allocation. Resource allocation could refer to department-specific technologies that may be required to meet business needs, like HR software, or it could refer to how parts of the architecture align and which processes will assist their integration.
Keeping this information together, for example in a template or spreadsheet, will make how much is being spent and who is using the software much more transparent, making the process of implementing the strategy easier.
Finally the most important step of them all is ensuring that the strategy is cost effective and functional. If the strategy is losing your business money, it’s not working.
Identifying key metrics and outlining the best key performance indicators (KPIs) can allow you to set benchmarks which record and analyse the performance of the strategy over time. Metrics might include:
At Binary Blue we provide IT Consultation services. We know that the key to running a successful business is to have the right information technology infrastructure working by your side. At Binary Blue, our IT consultancy experts will work collaboratively with you and the needs of your business to ensure the perfect strategy and infrastructure is implemented across your business. Get in touch with us today to find out more.