Having an IT strategy can sound like a luxury reserved for only the largest of companies. When you’re stretched to the limit on operations, security, finance and sales, IT planning can fall by the wayside. It’s likely that you also encounter other organisations who don’t have a technology plan, so this starts to feel much like the norm. You’re probably already so dependent on technology, it feels like it just evolves with your needs.
What happens when it doesn’t?
At some point in the natural development of your business or school there will come a point where you need to make a technology decision. The impact of this decision could have one, or it could have many, different consequences. How will this align with your current priorities, strategy and vision. If all of your choices up to this point have been made with a short-term outlook, have you been going down the right road for ultimate IT and organisational success, or have you just been achieving quick wins.
What is an IT strategy?
An IT strategy is a 3-5 year roadmap of how technology will support and further your overall business strategy. Broken down, this usually includes a timeline of initiatives and projects. This should never be a standalone document, and should integrate with every part of the organisation.
If you’ve got an IT project in mind, this could be a great place to kick-start your strategy planning. Say you’re considering migrating to the cloud and adopting a cloud first IT strategy, there are a huge number of factors within this, alongside why you’re doing it. There are the literal aspects of cost, internal resources, external resources to commission and timings, then the strategic reasoning of what benefits will be gained, what are the potential risks.
If you conclude a set of achievable goals to work towards you can build practical tech plans into this. Your overall roadmap can then be more of a guide, with the ability to fluidly account for external influences. While your strategy can and should be flexible, you should always know where you started and where you are going.
The basics of an IT strategy
There are different models that can be followed to construct an IT strategy, however most will contain these key elements:
- A high-level overview of the IT function or department. This will cover mission, values and objectives
- Existing budgets and spend forecasts for the years ahead
- Ongoing and future IT projects with timelines and achievement markers
- Detailed lists/a catalogue of existing architecture and internal capabilities; and future requirements and necessary resources.
- A SWOT analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of IT, alongside potential opportunities and threats
- An assessment of internal and external forces (market expectations and industry trends) that shape and will directly affect future IT, e.g. using PEST modelling
As a business document, it is helpful if the IT strategy is written in clear, concise large, free from jargon.
3 key benefits to an IT strategy
- Agility and Innovation
It’s essential to keep up with the ever changing needs of your organisation, alongside the continual advancements in technology. Your strategy should build in agility, if it’s too rigid it will struggle to adapt to change and become more of a hindrance than a driving force. Having short term goals within a larger strategy can help keep things moving and enable quick assessments of successes and rectifying of mistakes.
- Better Business Decisions
Having a strategy to work towards helps to empower the decision-making ability of employees. If they have a plan to work towards, they can use this to formulate ideas and devise interim plans, all with the ultimate goals in mind. By working to a strategy, you’ll always be somewhat prepared for unexpected change. You will have dedicated time to thinking about future changes and the risks involved. Better yet, as part of your strategy planning you may have also worked on a business continuity plan with your IT team or IT provider, You’ll then be fully versed in how to carry on business as usual with minimal disruption.
- Focus on Results
As a strategy is goal based, these goals should be measurable. By dividing your long-term strategy into manageable chunks and working towards these, you should be able to track results. These can be analysed as months go by, rather than years. Consider starting with the capabilities your organisation needs to progress. If these high priority goals are worked on first, you should see results rapidly and can determine if your approach is working or if the strategy needs amending in places.
Implementing your IT strategy
Creating the IT strategy is just the start, it then needs to be implemented. Having the documents in place is no use if they’re not acted upon after completion. Appointing someone to lead the implementation is always a good idea, particularly if your organisation isn’t large enough for a dedicated IT department and CIO or CTO. Giving someone ownership should ensure the plans are acted upon and developed as needed.
Strategic planning as standard
Whether we’re working on a single project with you, or providing ongoing IT support we always bring our strategic thinking heads with us. We’ll think about future proofing your investment, how our proposals fit with your existing solutions and ways to drive improvement for your business or school throughout our relationship. If you need some strategic consultancy because you don’t have the in house resources, we can help with that too.
Drive your business forwards with strategic planning. Talk to M-Tech today to see how we can support your goals.