Apr 22 4 min read
IT Strategic Planning: Why You Need An IT Strategy & What To Include
If you’re an IT manager, there’s a good chance you’re involved in the strategic planning at your company. Unfortunately, an IT Strategy is sometimes filed away in your company’s cloud storage, forgotten about, hardly referenced or rarely used - so why should you create one in the first place?
In this article, we’re going to discuss in detail why it’s important to have an IT Strategy, and what it can do for your business.
• What is an IT Strategy?
• What are the benefits of an IT Strategy and why you need one?
What is an IT Strategy?
Let’s start at the beginning: what is an IT Strategy? It is a document that is used to guide and improve a business’s IT infrastructure.
This document defines key goals, alongside strategies that support those goals. And then, it drills further into the tactics that are needed to execute and achieve those goals.
Essentially, it is a high-level project plan that addresses the gaps between the current state of your business’s IT, compared with meeting best practices, and the latest technological advancements.
An IT strategic plan defines your vision for the IT within your company. A good starting point is thinking about where you want to be in the future, and then work backwards, making sure to create a strategic roadmap for using IT and digital assets.
Tip: Integrate main business goals in your IT strategic plan
While the scope and format of an IT Strategy will differ from organisation to organisation, one thing remains constant: it must align with, and support, the company’s main vision and goals.
In order to be a successful strategy, it must take into consideration and address initiatives that are linked to a business’s goals – such as, improving response times, enhancing digital or customer experience, making cost-savings, enabling better workflow, strengthening security or helping increase sales.
What are the benefits of an IT Strategy and why you need one?
An IT Strategy allows you to hone in on the ongoing improvement of your business’s IT; enhancing processes, data security and efficiency.
The second benefit is that an IT Strategy helps drive your business growth forward, but only when the IT aligns with your overall goals.
It helps to view your strategic IT plan as a mechanism for achieving your most important objectives. It cannot be viewed as separate or as an addition, it must be intrinsically linked in order to drive growth.
Other benefits include:
Empowering your employees to make decisions
Another benefit of an IT Strategy is that IT managers can delegate decision-making to others within their team. This is only possible because an IT Strategy provides a clear framework for other to make decisions based upon. It provides a focused approach with the desired outcomes. This empowers team members, allowing them to question whether what they are doing is in-line with the IT plan and wishes of the business. If it is not, they can adjust accordingly to meet the goals.
When everyone involved in the delivery is helping drive initiatives forward, without needing approval from management at every step, it creates a more agile and fast-paced business.
Ensures proactivity and a quick response to change or emergencies
As the strategy lays out the vision, requirements, key initiatives, and directions that the IT will take in order to meet a business’s goals, this ensures proactivity and encourages tailored planning that revolves around an organisation’s priorities.
Not only this, but an IT Strategy allows a business to be better prepared for unexpected changes or emergencies. While not everything can be anticipated, some strategic objectives can be used to respond to unexpected changes and help promote growth (perhaps sooner than anticipated!).
Strategic thinking is a good exercise and allows a business to prepare for efficient responses, particularly to urgent issues or unexpected changes.
For example, if your business has an in-house file server and the storage space unexpectedly fills up, but coincidently, your IT strategic plan calls for cloud storage migration; this means the migration can be implemented as a pilot project, before your business moves to cloud storage permanently.
Provides a framework
A blank slate can be detrimental to creative thinking as it provides too much ambiguity and endless possibilities. Ironically, stifling creative thought.
Take the build of a new house as an example, the builders require a floorplan to start building, ordering materials and coordinating tradespeople. Much in the same way as a builder’s floorplan provides a starting point and guide, so does an IT strategic plan.
When a plan is in place, it doesn’t have to be followed rigidly but it can be used as a tool to open up discussions internally about likes or dislikes, features and how systems will be used.
Sharing it openly ensures involvement
If it doesn’t hold confidential information, an IT Strategy must be shared. When everyone that’s involved in the delivery, and by this we mean not limited to senior leadership, has a basic understanding of the strategic IT plan, any problems can be addressed quickly, and changes implemented effectively.
During planning sessions, as everyone is involved and understanding of the goals, they can be focused on capabilities and solutions.
Address and mitigate any ‘Shadow IT’ issues
Shadow IT is referred to as an IT function or solution that is unaffiliated with, and not approved by, the central IT department within a business.
One reason this may occur is due to employees finding a business’s existing IT solutions inefficient. Instead of continuing to work with them or letting the IT department know and work to change the existing function, the employee decides to adopt innovative technologies to help them do their job more efficiently.
Shadow IT has been on the increase in recent years, and an IT strategy can open up a discussion about IT function inefficiencies and methods for dealing with it.
If a new technology or programme is found, meets the needs of the team and is agile, then a case can be built for bringing it into the main business.
Allows for an open dialogue with senior leadership, communicating intentions
As an IT Manager, a strategic plan for IT is an invaluable document for creating an open dialogue with senior leadership and for communicating your IT intentions and goals. This conversation allows the senior leadership team to establish a high-level understanding of your IT department and the day-to-day operations. Furthermore, it also provides them with an opportunity to redirect any efforts that are not in-line with the business’s goals.
At Bluecube we provide IT strategic consulting service; this means we can work with you, or your IT department, to create and deliver an IT strategic plan that is tailored to your requirements and organisation.
We don’t believe in a 'one-size-fits all' approach, and prefer a bespoke and personal method. We also don’t simply make plans and then file them away, we implement them to drive real-time results. After all, what’s the point in wasting time strategising if you don’t reap the benefits too?