Creating an effective IT strategy

February 27, 2018

Your IT strategy is critical to making the best decisions for your department and organization.

We’ve all heard the adage, “Failure to plan is just planning to fail.” Even in an ever-changing field like information technology that still holds true. Unless you have a crystal ball at your disposal, it may be difficult to predict what technology enhancements may come in the next five years.

It may seem overwhelming, but if you follow these steps the planning process becomes a lot easier.

  1. First and foremost, make sure your IT strategy aligns with the overall organizational strategy. You don’t want to plan for massive capital expenditures when the ownership group is planning to sell the company in the coming months. Taking the time to understand the goals within the long-term strategy and mission can help you best support your organization.
  2. Understand the current state of your technology. Review your inventory and document the hardware and software within the organization. Know when licenses are entering “end of support” or “end of life.” These are all critical dates to have within the plan to make sure you have replacements or updates prior to the software or hardware becoming unsupported.
  3. Review proper sequencing for software upgrades. This can be a rather daunting process. In order to upgrade one software, it may require an update to the operating system, which may require new server hardware. Proper sequencing is critical to reduce the amount of technical issues you’ll run into during these projects. On one occasion, my team used over 250 Post-it notes to properly sequence the events that needed to occur within our three-year technology strategy.
  4. Involve the right people and ask the right questions. Is human resources planning on updating their payroll system? Does marketing intend on upgrading the website? Communicate with the different operations teams to understand their strategy and priorities, and understand the limitations of your own resources. Priorities should be based on overall return on investment—the larger the return, the sooner you’ll want to implement the change.
  5. Prioritize your project needs. There needs to be a balance to the changes—you don’t want to try to upgrade every major system in one year. Set a pace of change that’s acceptable to the leadership team. Also keep in mind to balance the types of projects within your plan. You’ll need to focus not only on major upgrades and projects, but allocate resources and dollars to maintenance, infrastructure updates and security projects.
  6. Develop appropriate technical skills in your IT department. Make sure that you have the right skills to support your long-term strategy. An IT department skills matrix can help you understand the technical skills within your team, while the strategic plan may point out additional education that your team will need to support future projects.
  7. Look to the front lines. While it’s important to listen to the other department heads for their input, it’s also crucial to listen to the end users for their ideas. Make sure that you have an input mechanism for end users to submit ideas for changes as well. Sometimes the best ideas come from the front lines.
  8. Be strategic about your timeline. I recommend targeting a three- to five-year timeframe overall, knowing that technology advancements might change the overall targets in years three to five, but years one and two should be fairly foreseeable. Be sure to review and update the plan at least once every six months to make sure you’re continuously planning based on new technological changes.

Creating an information technology strategy is critical for better decision making. When disaster strikes, looking to the long-term plan to make your short-term decisions can help avoid additional problems. The strategic plan ensures that everyone is working on the right projects at the right time, instead of on pet projects that may not have been approved. It can help balance capital spending and moderate the pace of change within the organization.

Ultimately, the IT strategic plan is probably the most important document that you can be working on. Unless, of course, you have that crystal ball.

For more information about IT strategy, please contact us at 800-236-2246.

Tags: Technology