Technology continues to reshape everything in our lives. It's transformed the way we live, shop, and, of course, the way we work (with good reason). Organizations built on a robust technological foundation benefit from increased agility, improved productivity, and the identification of new business opportunities.
For companies starting or continuing their digital transformation journey, developing a secure and efficient Information Technology (IT) strategy is imperative. But for corporations, startups, and the public sector alike, this isn't a straightforward process.
That's why they often seek the help of consulting firms highly experienced in digital transformation projects. This approach helps create new technological capabilities and long-term sustainable value for the business.
IT Strategy Defined
At its most basic, IT strategy is a detailed document that describes the organization's vision and mission regarding IT initiatives like digital transformation. In this case, IT strategy creates IT capability and refers to the company's ability to
- achieve business goals,
- create value and new opportunities,
- improve internal processes, and
- provide maintenance and support.
Technology touches every aspect of the business and has considerable visibility across departments. By developing a solid digital strategy, enterprises can evaluate their business goals and business strategies and analyze how technological innovation impacts people, processes, and more.
IT Strategic Plan
It's best to develop a holistic IT strategic plan that concentrates on its impact on all stakeholders. Successful IT strategic plans often share the following elements:
- operating models,
- specific detailed steps, and
- strategy documents.
Your strategic planning process should also consider sustainability, process optimization, and automation. You must also describe the roles and responsibilities of individuals tasked with implementing each step. However, it's important to note that your strategic plan is far from prescriptive.
Instead, it's a framework for managers and business leaders to make decisions that drive the implementation of new technology solutions that support your overall IT strategy. Your Strategic Plan isn't a static document. Instead, it can change and evolve during the implementation cycle and beyond. Continuous evolution also means that you need to build a scalable IT strategy. It should be able to successfully overcome potential hurdles and cope with the rise in workflows.
In contrast, a tactical plan is a mandate that highlights the steps you need to take to achieve your strategic goals. So, if you create a tactical plan instead of a strategic plan, you'll be sure to face some resistance.
To encourage company-wide buy-in, it's best to include a representative from each department during the planning phase. It's also better if the CIO (or a vCIO) leads this initiative.
How Do You Develop an IT Strategy?
Align with Business Goals
Your business goals (both immediate and long-term) are an excellent place to start. You must understand the present state of your business, the trends that impact it, and what you want to achieve in the short and long term.
With the end goal in mind, you should engage your CEO, CIO, and managers of each department. It would be best if you also considered growth plans, logistics, sales targets, demand forecasts, and so on. This approach will help you formulate an all-inclusive IT strategy.
When you understand the organization's objectives, you can determine if the current architecture, operating processes, and available skills can support it. The goal is to closely align the organization's aims and objectives with IT capabilities.
Strategy consultant’s pro tip: your plan won't just concentrate on the required financial investment. Instead, it works as an assessment of changes needed to achieve those goals.
Keep an Eye on the Future Trends
As technology continues to disrupt businesses, it's essential to try and figure out what the future holds for your niche. This isn't always easy, but it's crucial to become agile and flexible to adapt to the latest trends and embrace change.
As such, we must build a robust IT strategy on a foundation of clearly defined business goals. In this scenario, it's essential to understand different trends that impact growth, efficiency, customer experiences, and more. Getting this part right will have a direct impact on the competitiveness of your business.
Engage Key Stakeholders
As alluded to above, you must get everyone involved in formulating a robust IT strategy. This is because you need to gain an in-depth understanding of everyone’s specific needs. You also need to understand the future technology needs of the business.
The crucial role of internal and external stakeholders and the effective allocation of resources will also become more apparent. This approach helps set up a framework to base all your technology decisions.
When everyone is involved, they will also be more receptive to change. Staff will feel a sense of ownership over your IT strategy, which can improve your chances of successful implementation. It also helps encourage a companywide buy into your IT strategy and plan.
Don't Over Plan Your Digital Transformation
While planning is important, overplanning can lead to losing focus, diminished relevance, and scope creep. This doesn't mean that long-term roadmaps are unnecessary. It just means that they may be meaningless in an era of rapid technological and business shifts. So, keep an eye on the future, but leave it open, less granular, and flexible enough to adapt.
Keep your plan focused on the next 18 to 24 months and leave the next three to five years more adaptable to the unexpected. Get the details surrounding staffing, risks, governance, and the roadmap with timeframes right, and you'll be ready to go.
Strategy consulting services’ pro tip: Don't over plan, but plan for the years ahead. Companies that implement one-year strategies are usually guilty of employing tactics and not strategies to achieve short-term goals. Remember, your IT strategy is a process and not a one-time event.
Setup Success Metrics
A solid business and technology strategy boasts measures of success. This could serve as a motivator with mile markers that highlight progress over time. However, it's essential not to focus too much on inputs and output.
Having said that, you still need outcome-based key performance indicators (KPIs), and these should be measured frequently (at least monthly). KPIs have an important role because they measure clearly defined goals. Without it, your IT strategy can be a little document with little charts that are quickly filed away and forgotten.
Define Your Scope and Requirements
Develop your digital transformation roadmap with clearly defined requirements and scope. At this juncture, it's vital to address the goals of each department within the whole organization.
You can develop "key phrases" that address your overall visions and goals in the scheduled milestones. You can use it as a benchmark, go back to it, and validate it to ensure that your strategy is effective and that your IT operations are right on track.
Audit Your Existing IT Infrastructure
Once you have defined your requirements and scope, it's time to audit your existing IT infrastructure. You must take stock of available hardware and software and dive into the architecture to determine if there are any gaps in your current capabilities.
Ask questions like the following:
- Can you achieve your goals with minimum disruptions?
- What's the most cost-effective and efficient way to meet our objectives?
- How are staff using existing applications?
- Do our employees have the right skill sets to use new technologies?
IT strategy consultant’s pro tip: by identifying the gaps and hurdles that lie ahead early, you can plan to meet your goals quickly and cost-effectively with the fewest possible delays.
Set Up an IT Operating Model
An IT operating model transforms strategic intents into operational capabilities. It provides a clear guide that everyone from the leadership team to the IT team can follow. It helps bridge the gap between what's on paper (or the "why") and the actions (or the "how").
According to McKinsey, an operating model will impact your customers, employees, partners, and vendors. In a way, it provides context to the vision and strategy that you're trying to implement. It covers the whole lifecycle of your IT strategy, project management, architecture, IT infrastructure support, and a whole lot more.
Whether you're in healthcare or financial services, strategy consulting firms often recommend the inclusion of the following elements in your operating model:
- organizational structure, and
If you're working with a managed services provider, you have to make sure that they accommodate your plans.Governance
Governance describes the key roles and procedures involved in ensuring the uninterrupted flow of information from business to IT.
These are the processes that come together to support enterprise architecture. This could be anything from applications, business requirements, and IT support.
The organizational structure represents critical IT functions that you can organize and interface with each other.
Sourcing in this context represents the selection and management of external partners and vendors. These include hardware and software manufacturers and IT services providers.
An IT operational model, like your strategic plan, isn't a static document. It should evolve according to your changing business needs. Your IT operating model must support and empower all departments through technology.
Map the Overall Architecture
Once you know exactly where you are and where you need to head, it's time to start mapping out the architecture that will support all the hardware, software, and other applications you plan to use to achieve your goals.
The overall architecture must consider department-specific technologies, apps used by different teams, cybersecurity, and compliance. It would help if you determined how they integrate into the larger enterprise-wide ecosystem.
Key benefits of IT strategy and planning include:
- a holistic and comprehensive cybersecurity approach that protects both customer and employee data,
- improved project planning, resource allocation, and the prioritization of long-term benefits,
- enhanced communication between IT and business managers to realize better alignment across departments,
- business relevance in the long-term,
- adoption of cutting-edge technologies and data collection across verticals,
- identification or creation of new business opportunities,
- improved collaboration and increased productivity by the implementation of technology solutions, and
- optimized business processes and operations.
When properly executed, your IT strategy will transform into a powerful driver of efficiency and growth. It's also a way to support both staff and your business goals concurrently and directly.