The concept of planning for technology is hard to argue.
A good IT strategy aligns the mission and vision of your organization with the technology and operations that make it happen. This allows IT projects and spending to propel the growth of business rather than existing as a reactive cost center. Surprisingly, the majority of IT leadership executives do not have a strategy that is organizationally agreed upon, aligned with business objectives, and fully funded.
It's importance is clear, so why are organizations missing this?
Lack of time is the number one reason given. Daily fires, late projects, endless meetings, budgets, and the countless vendors trying to sell you their "solutions" make this reason very understandable. Who has time to come up with a strategy when so much else requires attention?
This results in IT plans that are typically tactical goals such as capital improvements, annual replacement cycles, incremental infrastructure updates, software upgrades, and an occasional new project.
As each functional area of business now depends on IT, the absence of forward looking strategy can cause major issues as the business expands and IT is not prepared.
For example, more and more data is gathered about customers and the ability to access and analyze this data can be extremely powerful. Let's say your business wants to begin a data analytics initiative to mine this information and use it to better serve your customers, or even create new services or products based on trends and habits. There are major challenges associated with harnessing the power of this customer data. For one, storage is a big factor. Collecting more and more information requires somewhere to put it and cloud based or in-house storage is a big consideration. Beyond storing the data, there is a need for the computing power to allow for the analysis to occur, the proper software to make sense of the raw data, and the staff to analyze it.
With a business outcome based strategy, the organization has planned the actions to handle challenges like the one outlined above so spending, knowledge, and processes are focused on these big time game-changers for the organization.
Here are some tips when developing an IT plan:
- It starts with leadership, such as the CEO and executive board.
- Identify what is your businesses main purpose.
- Make a map of how you interact with your clients.
- Write out the key activities of your business.
- Uncover what are your costs.
- Learn what is the happiness level of your staff with existing processes and systems.
Armed with this information you can begin to identify what are the biggest opportunities that technology can help solve.
Budgets should be created based heavily on the potential business upside rather than the cost of the solution. The idea is to use your technology as an enabler, one that delivers your customers, staff and bottom line a boost on a long-term basis.
As you change the way technology is viewed in your organization it will become clear that the bar has been raised and each initiative is meant to deliver a positive business outcome.
The days of buying technology for the sake of technology will be a distant memory.