Taking advantage of new technology and getting the most from existing IT investments isn’t easy
Goldsmiths University classifies 46% of UK organisations as “endangered” because their failure to adopt IT to their competitive advantage makes them less likely to survive, let alone thrive.
One example of this is how we use passwords. Good technical tools are available for password management, yet our behaviour around passwords remains poor. Poor adoption of this technology creates unnecessary risks for businesses.
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 IT strategy template of five simple steps you can use to plan an IT strategy:
1. IT Strategy: Outline your business goals and high-level objectives
The primary function of your IT strategy planning 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 planning and 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.
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2. IT Strategy: 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 business 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. Find some good IT strategy examples. 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 IT strategy plan, scope, schedule and list of stakeholders will be useful in coming up with a ‘roadmap’ for implementing your strategy.
3. IT 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.
4. IT Strategy: 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 documents that gives clear visibility into your architecture, how much you’re spending and who will be using it. There are IT Strategy templates to help with this step if you don’t want to build your own.
5. IT Strategy: 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 in our IT Strategy example, you’ll be able to plan an IT strategy that does just that.
Since we first wrote this article the IT environment has changed considerably, but the 5 Step approach above still holds true.
It’s crucial to add, though, one key area – Cyber Security. Data protection law requires businesses to take action on privacy and security by default and design. In other words, all technical changes should be considered from a compliance and security point of view.
Additionally, criminal activity is more frequent and sophisticated. So it’s vital to assess and mitigate your biggest risks and have a plan for when there is a problem. Security should be a separate line item in your budget and on your roadmap.