The IT services landscape is continuously evolving, with new technologies emerging every day. Businesses need a roadmap that can help them make the right decisions about technology and investment. This is where an IT strategy comes into play.
An IT strategy is a vital component of your business’s IT capability. It lays the foundation for value creation using IT assets and know-how by laying out what the particular business needs and how to achieve goals in a sustainable way. Not just that, an IT strategy helps businesses with improving business processes, providing maintenance and support services, right staffing for IT systems and other organizational needs.
When you set out to create or modify your IT strategy, you must build a robust and complete IT strategy.
This blog will outline ten steps to ensure an effective and efficient IT strategy.
1. Align your activities with the organization’s objectives
Your IT strategy must be aligned with your organization’s goals to determine how well it is meeting those objectives, what value the activities are providing to organizational stakeholders, and how you could improve upon the strategy. Being clear about what you want to achieve at an individual level will help structure your IT strategy. You can work out what skills your team needs by mapping the business goals to the roles required to achieve them.
2. Coverage period
When developing an IT strategy, an important factor is ensuring that you have a clear timeline for when you want it to be up and running, which stakeholders will be engaged in driving it forward, and how you will measure success. Your IT strategy should be a plan covering a longer period than your current projects or initiatives.
Aim to create an IT strategy for a period no shorter than five years, but update it annually for course correction. You don’t have to create a new strategy every year but update your strategy accordingly if something significant happens in the market.
There are a few best practices for coverage period for an IT strategy such as –
Avoid making an IT strategy for less than a year as it is not feasible to create meaningful value and IT transformation in a short period. Implementing one-year tactics rather than a strategy to meet short-term deadlines and goals is never a good idea for achieving true growth and transformation.
3. Relevant assumptions, limitations, and requirements
If you try to be too detailed in your IT strategy, you risk assumptions about the future. While it is important to think through your current capabilities and needs, remember not all details will be relevant to the strategy. What matters is understanding what is required for a successful strategy – and knowing what isn’t relevant now but could be in the future. It is important to include any considerations that have affected or may affect or shape your IT strategy shortly.
For instance, whether or not to expect a significant marketplace disruption soon, if some product lines are coming or going away, and so on.
4. IT vision statement
An IT vision statement should act as a starting point for developing your strategy by stating what your business wants to achieve with IT or how you want to leverage technology to gain an advantage over competitors. Think of it as a detailed expression of the high-level company goals and how IT can help. If you already have a vision statement, it may be useful to update your current strategy to ensure that the goals are consistent.
Rather than focusing on the different ways things are done, focus on your capabilities when creating your IT vision statement. For example, a car company might have a vision statement – providing information to 500,000 self-driving cars a week.
5. Describe and prioritize the most important projects and initiatives
Your strategy should focus on the projects, initiatives, or areas of priority that will deliver tangible business benefits and big deliverables. Ensure to include a high-level justification for each project you intend to implement.
You can then prioritize them into three categories that will help you decide which IT projects should be the primary focus, which initiatives should be postponed later, and which projects can be combined. It is also crucial to keep room for changes in your strategy when new projects or a new requirement make it imperative to modify the strategy. An IT strategy should be considered a process that accounts for the changes as and when needed.
6. Timelines for significant projects
A key part of your strategy has accurate timelines for each project in place. You can do this by using Gantt charts to help you understand the dependencies between projects and how they impact each other. In a five-year IT strategy, make sure you assign more specific deadlines in the first few years. Your readers should get the idea of when they can expect the results.
7. Resources that are important
You should build your strategy upon a realistic assessment of existing and future staff capabilities and resource availability – including the ability to train, engage with vendors and expand as necessary. You can use an IT staffing plan as part of your IT strategy to map the skills, roles, and responsibilities required for success. This approach will help you see how many people are needed in each business area to deliver your IT vision.
8. Significant processes, technologies, and infrastructures needed
IT strategy comes into play when providing tools that enable staff members to complete their tasks easily and accurately. To achieve this for your business, you need to consider which systems or technologies will be needed to support them in the future.
For instance, if your company is on an acquisition tear, find out how many new servers, network infrastructure, devices, telecommunications lines, and email seats would be needed for new IT clients. Consider if you are moving your infrastructure to the cloud and if yes, list out what infrastructure, technologies, and processes you will need to support strategy items, along with when and how you’ll expect to deploy each item.
9. IT Business Management
A company-wide large-scale IT initiative is a business into itself, and thus it is important to brainstorm and decide how you will manage that business. To implement your IT strategy successfully, you must clearly understand what needs to happen internally to make it work. You may need to consider the following:
– The roles required for your IT services team (if you already have one)
– How decisions will be made
– How skills and technologies will be managed within your business – Any process changes needed around technology release management, service management, or service desk practices
– How do you plan to change your IT services provider relationships to support the move to a more strategic approach.
It is important to recognize that IT strategy doesn’t exist in isolation – it should align with other business strategies and be consistent across all divisions within the company. Your IT strategy may be one of many different strategies, and in some organizations, it may be a supporting strategy.
10. Strategic initiative budgets and expenses, Sign-off
Examine how you will pay for the digital and IT transformations over the next five years. Budget and costs should be presented in years 1-2, with estimates provided in years 3-5. This will assist the reader see what your strategy’s actual expenditures are.
Getting management sign-off is the last step in developing an IT strategy. If management has been involved with strategy development throughout the process, it should be easier to get sign-off. You may use your developed IT strategy to help you manage your IT right now during its operational period.
Having an IT strategy in place shows you clearly understand where the organization is going and how to use technology to get there. Your IT strategy should be simple, clear, visual, easy to communicate across your business stakeholders, and relevant to your company’s goals. As IT solutions change over time, you will need to reset or update your IT strategy to ensure you still meet the needs of the business.