By Anthony Smit
When asked if the IT department has a strategy, typically IT executives answer that they have the business’s overarching strategy, and that’s enough for them. If most IT execs were completely honest, they might say that the IT department soldiers on, taking care of helpdesk support, server maintenance, and the occasional ransomware scare, almost in isolation of the rest of the company.
According to a survey by Info-Tech Research group, IT strategies are often non-existent or ineffective with 84% of IT departments surveyed claiming that their IT strategies are less than adequate. It furthermore found that IT does not do a good job of communicating their support for business goals with 47% of business leaders feel that their goals are unsupported by IT.
IT departments that have not developed IT strategies experience alignment, organisation, and prioritisation issues.
However, when an in-house or outsourced CIO has developed an IT strategy, the percentage of business executives that rate CIOs as “effective” and/or “very effective” in the following areas changes significantly.
Therefore, thinking that IT does not need its own strategy because it operates chiefly under the enterprise strategy is fundamentally flawed.
What if marketing, operations and HR thought the same thing? They each have their own strategies that they live and die by. These departmental strategies all drive the activities within these departments to help the business at large reach its goals.
By the same token, IT should have its own strategy; one that compliments the strategies of the other departments.
To do this, it is important that IT engages with the various business units early on in the strategy development process in order to help shape the plans of each of those units. Once IT leadership has a clear understanding of what is required, an IT-specific strategy can be created. One that supports the business towards reaching its goals.
Four key issues preventing CIOs from developing effective IT strategies
- Business dependency – IT Leadership has difficulty identifying the business context.
- No iterative process – There is no defined process to creating IT strategies. IT reinvents the wheel every time.
- Misaligned strategy – The IT strategy’s alignment to business context is not clear.
- Complex strategy – The IT strategy is not clear enough for business to understand.
IT strategy in the business context
A successful IT strategy begins with understanding the key elements of business context. The business context encompasses an understanding of the factors impacting the business from various perspectives, how it makes decisions, and what it is trying to achieve. The business context is used by IT to derive implications and ultimately create the IT strategy.
Key elements of the business context includes:
- the business strategy,
- external factors and industry trends,
- the organisation’s Vision and Mission,
- organisational design,
- the business network, and
- organisational governance.
The objective of IT strategy development should therefore aim to create a roadmap that moves IT from the current state to the target state by clearly understanding the business context.
IT Strategy Roadmap
Reaching the target state is the ultimate goal of an organisation, accomplished via the completion of initiatives. By uncovering the current state and the ideal target state, a roadmap can be created to chart initiatives and achieve the organisation’s goals.
Although it might be tempting to jump right into putting projects on a roadmap, a thorough understanding of both the target and current states are needed to build a successful IT strategy.
Every business, no matter what size or industry, needs a comprehensive IT strategy if it hopes to remain competitive, and relevant. IT impacts on every aspect of a business, and the benefits that an IT strategy brings to an organization, such as cyber security, data protection, enterprise architecture, infrastructure and process alignment, ensure that enterprises successfully reach their goals.
With this as a start, you are well on your way to creating an IT strategy that supports and enhances the business’s initiatives, capabilities, and goals.
Need an IT Strategy?
Not every organisation can afford the in-house skills set required to carry out a company-wide IT strategy, let alone implement it. Outsourcing your IT strategy to an expert is the ideal solution. Tandem CIO’s methodology helps organisations overcome those four key issues listed above, while developing your strategy.
Our blueprint focuses on creating an IT strategy, but the methodology begins by first understanding the business context.