How could 300 Spartans hold off the might of the Persian army at Thermopylae? How could a hugely outnumbered Roman army annihilate the British tribes under Boudica at the battle of Watling Street? One of the great lessons of history is the importance of strategy. Strength in numbers alone is rarely enough.
It’s the same in information technology. Consider the billions of dollars and millions of man-hours spent each year by organizations trying to streamline operations, boost efficiency, and gain a competitive advantage. It is clear that some invest more wisely than others. Those who succeed follow a clear-cut strategic direction and prioritize their activities accordingly.
What is a Strategic Plan?
A strategic plan is a systematic process of envisioning a desired future and translating that vision into objectives and a sequence of steps to achieve them.1 In IT, that cannot be done in isolation. The IT manager or chief information officer must develop his or her plan based on the strategic plan of the organization as a whole. After all, IT is there to serve the business.
The goal is to align the IT team with the desires of the organization. For example, if the business is attempting to establish a massive sales and distribution network, it wouldn’t make sense for IT to focus on a two-year server and PC upgrade program across the entire enterprise. Instead, IT should formulate a plan that helps the organization as a whole achieve its objectives.
If sales personnel spend too much time devising proposals, itemizing orders, and writing invoices, for instance, IT could figure out a system that automates and simplifies the process, thereby saving substantial amounts of time. But IT strategic planning could go beyond that to determine what data the sales staff really need and then streamline the underlying database structure so that they get that data in real time, not several days later.
Developing the Strategic Plan
This means interviewing executives and sales staff and gathering enough insight on what is important, what is merely desirable, and what is unwanted in terms of features, functions, and priorities. The best approach is to interview many people, not just one sales manager or one executive. Interviewing management and operations staff creates intelligence that is smarter and more insightful than any one individual.2
Sound strategic planning doesn’t take things for granted. Too often, organizations settle on a budget for a particular thing and do not update it for years. Such thinking may cripple planning by saddling it with outdated and inaccurate budgeting.
Therefore, it is important to review existing IT costs, compare those costs against other companies in a similar field, and look at ways to reduce costs. Alternatively, be receptive to new ways of looking at things. Perhaps a junior team member has an idea on how to switch to a different approach that will slash costs and increase functionality.
Demand for Strategic IT Skill Sets
Those are a few key points to bear in mind when devising an IT strategic plan. The plan itself should be concise, with easily understandable objectives that help a business accomplish its goals.
It takes real know-how to develop such a strategic plan. Companies are searching for IT executives with the business, technology and planning savvy necessary to think, plan and act strategically. They are seeking individuals with a skill set that goes beyond that of the typical computer science or business graduate degree.
For example, Georgetown University offers a unique graduate degree with its Master’s in Technology Management program, either online or on campus. For more information, call (855) 725-7622 today.