Today, most companies employ some sort of technology to handle many aspects of their business. But what some may not know is what a good IT strategy looks like, and which one is best for their company’s needs. If you haven’t had the time or knowledge to plan a business IT strategy, we’re here to help. In this article we’ll discuss what exactly an IT strategy is, what makes a good IT strategy, and how to know if your business needs a new one in 2020.
What is an IT Strategy?
There are many definitions of IT strategy floating around. But essentially we can define it as a business’s long-term strategic plan regarding its use of information technology. A good IT strategy’s design will maximize the value of an organization’s information technology capabilities.
Why is it important to have a good one?
Chances are, your business has been through strategic planning processes before. Everyone writes down their goals and objectives for the coming year or years, you discuss. And then eventually together, you make a comprehensive list, complete with a plan of action.
Too often these business processes are brushed off as unimportant or pointless, but we’re here to tell you that they’re not! When done correctly, setting your business’s strategic goals regarding information technology can have a huge impact on not only your day to day operations, but also on the long term success of your business.
An information technology strategy allows a business’ chief information officer (CIO), or whoever may be leading the planning process, to share with employees the long term plans and goals of the organization. This gives employees a framework to refer to when going about their daily operations.
This sort of planning is especially important when it comes to information technology, which by nature is constantly changing and developing. Is your business constantly examining and re-examining how its operating model aligns with information technology? If not, then there is a good chance that you will miss out on important trends in the market.
In other words, it will not suffice to simply make a strategic plan; it is necessary to develop a business strategy aligned with IT strategy.
A good IT strategy will result in:
- reduced inefficiencies
- fewer bottlenecks
- maximized efficiency in regards to economies of scale, and more.
This will not only make a business more competitive in the marketplace, but also more sustainable in the long run.
Signs Your Business Needs a New IT strategy
Your current plan is too specific.
The nature of strategic plans – and especially IT strategic plans – is that they lay out long term terms goals and objectives. And these in turn should lead to a better understanding of how to proceed with day to day business processes.
Since the information technology world changes so quickly and dynamically, your strategic plan must leave room for growth, flexibility, and improvisation. A specific plan that works for today only might not allow for any updates, and could instead lock your business into using inefficient methods.
Your current IT strategy is three years old or older.
Three years old is even being generous. If you have two year old strategic plan for integrating information technology into your business that you haven’t referred to since you made it, then you should probably make a new one. Your information technology alignment strategy has to be recent enough to accurately reflect the current IT climate.
Of course, there will always be some degree of predicting the future. But you want to have an informed enough idea of the future to be able to do so with some degree of accuracy. However, information technology changes so quickly, that creating a plan yearly will keep you and your team up to date with the changing times. Think of these strategies like the continual emerging of new Smartphones- staying ahead of the curve is your best bet.
Executing an Effective IT strategy
Like all good strategic plans, an information technology strategy must start with a review and analysis of where your business stands in accordance to its currently laid out IT goals and objectives. If your business does not yet have an IT strategy, you’ll want to come up with some goals and objectives to use as a baseline for analysis.
This analysis should result in a clearer understanding of how:
- you are currently using information technology
- efficiently you’re using it
- how you could use it well and maximize its effectiveness, and so forth.
This is commonly referred to as a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis. And chances are – if you’ve been in the business/corporate world long enough, you’ve had to conduct one of these. The SWOT format can be a highly effective way to summarize your internal and external analyses. As such, it succinctly lists what you’re doing well, what you’re not doing well, opportunities to do better, and potential issues or threats to your IT strategy.
Within the SWOT analysis should be a review of your organizations’s current projects that fall under the purview of information technology. Along with listing current projects, it is a good idea to include projected dates of completion and/or milestones. This way, during a review of your strategic plan, you will be able to gauge your progress. This is also a good spot to list prospective projects.
Something commonly forgotten in IT strategic plans is an overview of the company’s current IT department. How many people are in it? What are their roles and responsibilities? Who do they report to? This is all important to include so that in the future, looking back on your plan, you can see how your IT department has grown, shrunk, or become more efficient and streamlined.
How Would This Strategy align with Business/Corporate Strategy?
Perhaps the most common mistake made in creating information technology strategic plans is neglecting to tie them back into a company’s overall business or corporate strategy. As you can imagine, this oversight can result in an extremely confusing situation. As a result, it becomes unclear what the purpose of IT is and how it relates to the corporation’s overall goals and objectives.
This type of confusion can result in differences of opinion not only between staff, but even between the CIO, CEO and CFO, with no cohesive document to turn to that will help resolve the situation. Hence, creating a holistic IT strategy that also references the corporate strategy lends to harmonious business alignment. Everyone will then have a much clearer picture of how all your company’s department work together to achieve your goals and objectives.
In 2020 more than ever, information technology is extremely important to how businesses operate. And this is especially true for how they will operate more efficiently in the future. It is crucial to ensure you have an effective IT strategy in place, and if not, that you know how to create one.
You know you have great products and services, but don’t they deserve to be better maintained with great IT?
Not sure how to begin this procedure and incorporate the right people at the right time? We can help.
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Contact us here: our team of professionals have decades of experience working in technology executive roles and are well-equipped to coach and mentor leaders across multiple industries. We offer fractional CIO resources and our Surge CIO™ or Gap CIO™ solutions as well.
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