Businesses are embracing new technology. For example, according to a recent Microsoft survey of 600 British small and medium-size businesses:
- The majority want to support more remote working
- Nearly two-thirds (60%) use some cloud or hosted services
- Two-fifths are using group chat and video conferencing
But taking advantage of new technology and getting the most from existing IT investments isn’t easy. Only a third of respondents said they had a single preferred supplier for their technology needs. That means two-thirds don’t have a trusted partner and many businesses just don’t have a solid IT strategy at all.
Whether you’re new to the process or a seasoned IT manager, knowing just where to start when you plan an IT strategy can be difficult. That’s why we’ve put together this list of five simple steps you can use to plan an IT strategy:
Outline your business goals and high-level objectives
The primary function of your IT strategy is to support your business needs.
In the initial stages of planning, start by outlining your business needs, goals and high-level objectives. If you don’t have an overarching business strategy you can clarify your mission and needs by looking at your:
- Sales pipeline and targets
- Plans for any upcoming partnerships, mergers or acquisitions
- Growth plans
- Any other ‘action plans’ that your teams might be working towards
The importance of this step cannot be overstated. The most successful organisations align their IT strategy with their business strategy to make both a success. Accounting firms, for example, are embracing new technologies to support new business practices needs, while the UK government is placing innovation and scalability at the heart of its strategy to support the development of digital public services.
Define your scope, stakeholders and schedule
A list of goals is not a strategy so the next step is to define your scope, stakeholders and schedule.
It’s important that everyone is clear about the purpose of your IT strategy, who is responsible for delivering it and to whom it applies. Your IT strategy shouldn’t (and can’t) solve all your problems at once, so even if your strategy is company-wide you need to articulate how it affects different business units and functions.
This is where defining your stakeholders becomes important. Be consultative and meet with key people in your business units who will be able to tell you how they’re using technology, what their plans are for next year and how IT can support them.
It’s also important to put a lifespan on your IT strategy. Most IT strategies are long-term, but you might want to review and redefine your strategy more frequently. Define the key phases – implementation, integration, review, etc – and know when the strategy will activate, and when it will need to be revised.
Having a clearly defined scope, schedule and list of stakeholders will be useful in coming up with a ‘roadmap’ for implementing your strategy.
Review your existing infrastructure
When you plan an IT strategy it’s important to remember that you’re not reinventing the wheel.
Reviewing your existing IT infrastructure will help you define problems, see what’s working and where resources can best be saved by making use of what is already available. As you start thinking about your IT, ask yourself:
- How are teams and departments using technology? What tools, software or systems do they use? Your answers should be in the information you’ve collected from various teams and units within your business.
- What’s working? What isn’t? Think critically about how IT is being used and analyse which tools, software and systems are providing the most value.
By thinking critically about your current infrastructure you’ll be able to plan an IT strategy based on resources you already have. You’ll identify opportunities to save money and time that you would otherwise spend on implementing an entirely new infrastructure or switching IT providers.
Create a roadmap for resource allocation and architecture
This might seem like the most difficult step, but if you’ve been following the right process then resource allocation will be relatively easy.
Start by defining an overall technology architecture, which is made up of the major software, hardware and other tools you’ll be using. Then consider any department-specific technology that might be required to meet business goals, like specialist financial or HR software. Lastly, think about how the parts in your architecture fit together, and what processes will govern their integration.
Keep all this information in a common spreadsheet or other document that gives clear visibility into your architecture, how much you’re spending and who will be using it. There are templates to help with this step (such as these and these) if you don’t want to build your own.
Define your metrics
Since your IT strategy is supporting your business needs, you need to make sure that it is functional and cost effective. You can’t be losing money on something designed to advance your business!
This is why it’s important to identify some key metrics and KPIs that you can use to benchmark and analyse the performance of your IT strategy over time. These might include:
- Service level indicators, like the number of help desk calls
- Operational indicators, such as capacity utilisation
- Business-level indicators, like budget and customer satisfaction
- Qualitative indicators, like end-user and customer feedback
When done right, an IT strategy can be a powerful tool to drive growth and efficiency in your business, supporting your goals and your staff directly. With these five steps, you’ll be able to plan an IT strategy that does just that.