Our View: IT Strategic Planning - Essential to IT Success
When CIOs are asked ‘What are the top things that IT must do in order to be seen as a strategic player in the organization?' two of the answers usually are:
"Be aligned with the organization" and "Run IT like a business."
By definition, IT as an entity is not aligned with the organization if it does not have a business plan that connects to organizational strategy.
Surprisingly, we sometimes hear career-limiting rejections of this observation. The case for IT Strategic Planning can be made, and it can turn a career-limiting perspective into an organization-building and career-enhancing mission.
If any of these arguments sound familiar, then consider our suggestions:
- "We do not have the expertise in IT to do strategic planning."
Strategic planning expertise can be acquired; it is not rocket science. And this expertise should, in the grand scheme of things, be a modest investment. Train and coach your leadership team in the fundamentals of quality strategic planning.
- "The organization does not have a strategic plan, so we have no business objectives against which to map our own plan."
When the organization does not have a strategic plan, the door of opportunity for IT to contribute is wide open. You can build strong relationships with key executives when you present your interpretation of their strategic plan model. Create a straw model of business strategic
objectives. Solicit their input and feedback. Remember, they are being measured on the achievement of their own strategic objectives - so ‘get them where they live.' Become consultants to the organization at large in their own strategic planning.
- "We ‘take orders' so we are in response mode for providing technology and services to the organization."
If you, as CIO, are an ‘order taker', you are either misreading your role, or your business community is underestimating the value IT can bring to the organization. Workshops, executive education events, seminars - these forums can bring new ideas to stakeholders about IT's role in productivity, product differentiation, and profitable exposure to the customer that may
not have been perceived before.
- "The organization does not support a budget in IT that funds an esoteric activity like strategic planning."
Don't take no for an answer when it comes to the funding for strategic planning. Close the disconnects that are the root cause of funding disinterest. How? Host a facilitated workshop with key players. Table the critical success factors for IT. Make the case: IT cannot meet
business expectations without a strategic plan that spells out how IT will help the rest of the organization to meet expectations. These expectations are the IT strategic objectives - the core of any strategic plan.
- "Why do I need a strategic plan for commodity services like desk-top, applications development and support, telecommunications, and a server farm? I run a utility shop."
Take IT to the next level with strategic planning, and become a partner in business profit and profitability. We agree that an important role for IT is to be a utility. Responsiveness, reliability, desk-top functionality, support -- they all need to be there. But these commodity capabilities do
not move the business forward. If the CIO or the business sees IT uniquely as a utility in its contribution to the organization, then the IT-to-Business relationship is terminal.
So if you, as a CIO, have used some combination of the above answers to defend ‘I don't need a strategic plan' reasoning, then it is time to rethink. The benefits of IT strategic planning are many, and if you carry out that planning, IT will make a much greater contribution to your
Lewis Cardin, B. Sc., Principal Consultant - IT Leadership