Give Your Business an Effective and Informed Roadmap to Support Operations and Expansion
Your business already has a strategic plan – but have you considered how IT factors into growth, expansion, and success?
You already rely on information technology (IT) as an integral part of day-to-day operations. As such, it stands to reason that you need an IT strategic plan to ensure success and direction.
Like any strategic plan, an IT strategic plan can help you set goals for your business and figure out how to reach them. Developing this plan provides a structure and roadmap you can follow, but presents a few unique challenges of its own.
This guide serves as a primer for your IT strategic plan but is by no means the final word on the subject. Consulting with expert IT advisory services can help you identify your organization’s needs and how best to address them.
Developing a Structure for Your Plan
When creating an IT strategy, consider buy-in from management, stakeholders, and employees, especially if you employ BYOD at your organization. This way all parties can work towards the bigger picture and understand the overall goals and motivation behind all decisions, and how they are affected and involved.
If you’re planning on engaging any data analytics strategies to help boost your business, for example, including it in your strategy can help you put it into play effectively.
First, your strategic plan should start with defining your strategic mission, i.e. what it plans to achieve and how the IT strategy relates to business goals.
A mission should be broadly defined to guide both management and employees, and yet specific and narrow enough to keep efforts focused and on-track. It’s a fine line to walk but consider your business’ mission statement when in doubt. Don’t hesitate to refer to your business to help define how your IT should develop.
By reviewing your business’s strategic plan, you can determine which areas technology can lend a hand and support those goals.
Clear End Goals
Goals are distinct from missions. Goals are specific, attainable results, while a mission is an ongoing process. Consult with your IT department to develop a prioritized list of technology investments necessary to ensure optimal business operations and success.
This list should ideally consider both short- and long-term needs.
These measurable goals allow all stakeholders to monitor progress and pace. Whenever you hit one of these milestones, evaluate your results and how you got there. You may need to redefine your goals as time passes and situations change. These post-mortems are a great opportunity to re-evaluate budgetary considerations, too.
Whether you create an IT strategy in-house or with a consultant, it’s important to gather information and feedback from stakeholders. This information typically includes:
- Hardware and software inventories;
- Telecommunications services;
- Organization charts;
- Network topology diagrams;
- Policies and procedures;
- Disaster recovery/continuity of operations plans; and
- Other necessary documents.
It’s important to have full stakeholder involvement when creating an IT strategy. Since stakeholders are involved in funding and executing business plans, their inclusion ensures appropriate resource allocation.
Buy-in from stakeholders outside of the IT department is also crucial since they provide objectivity and participation from all sectors of your organization.
Your IT consultants can gather feedback from all stakeholders through employee surveys, focus groups, and interviews. This feedback makes it possible to identify IT performance level, including challenges and opportunities.
All the collected data will be analyzed for best practices and gap analysis.
Gap analysis determines the IT weaknesses to create recommendations. This is also known as SWOT analysis – Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.
This analysis will find internal and external factors that could affect the IT network infrastructure and its contribution to your business’s success.
A SWOT analysis helps identify barriers and necessary resources to help the IT department achieve its goals. It also helps identify those technological assets that give you a competitive advantage and might be worth investing in.
At last, it’s time to record the goals, objectives, and guiding principles you’ve established by this point.
Guiding principles inform decision-making. These help IT and management make decisions that don’t always fall directly under the purview of specific goals and mission objectives. Your project team must provide plenty of feedback during the documentation process to help prioritize initiatives and objectives.
Your group will also want to ensure that funding, resource, and timeframes are realistic and attainable. Once the plan is written, you need feedback from your organization and its stakeholders.
Using feedback on the plan, revisions will be made, and the plan will be finalized. You can then present the plan to management, IT, and stakeholders, and publish it for company-wide distribution.
Anything can happen during the course of this plan, so you should always monitor your progress and update it when necessary.
The economy, funding, and new technologies could change the outcomes of your plan. And once you’ve reached that three- to five-year mark, your business should develop a new IT strategic plan.
How Your Plan Supports Organizational Decision-Making
Start with the End Goal
An effective IT strategic plan helps ensure that your business prioritizes those projects and initiatives that ultimately benefit your business the most.
Think ahead, between three and five years from now. Where do you want your business to be? What specific outcomes are you looking for? With this endpoint in mind, it suddenly becomes easier to prioritize and determine the steps you need to take to get there. Strategic plans are most often long-term documents, after all.
For example, say you want full cloud integration and BYOD adoption across your organization in two years’ time. Working backwards from that point helps you determine milestones, goals, and objectives along the way in far more concrete terms than before.
Delegate Decision Making
Decision making is perhaps one of the biggest challenges faced by any organization. Upper management determines the destination, while the rest of the organization keep the ship running smoothly.
But at some point, an organization grows too large to involve the CEO or COO with every detail and decision. Guiding principles in an IT strategic plan help all levels of the organization make appropriate decisions independently without fear of going off-track.
Expect the Unexpected
Strategic planning allows your business to prepare for the future, including unexpected changes. For example, by planning ahead for an unexpected system outage, you could adopt cloud storage so you will never lose valuable data.
Provide a Base for Creative Thinking
When everyone has a basic understanding of your business end goals, it’s easier to address strengths and weaknesses and come up with creative solutions for fast problem solving.
Discover and reach your business IT goals with the help of an IT strategy from expert IT advisory services.