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IT Strategy

information technology strategy, IT Strategy

Information Technology strategy (IT strategy) is a comprehensive plan that outlines how technology should be used to meet IT and business goals. An IT strategy is a written, living  document that details the multiple factors that affect the organisation’s investment and use of technology.

It should cover all facets of technology management, including cost management, human capital management, hardware and software management, vendor management and risk management.

Executing an IT strategy requires a strong IT leadership that will need to work closely with business, budget and legal departments as well as with other lines of business and user groups to achieve its success.

Organisations formalise their IT strategy in a written document or strategy map. The plan and its documentation should be flexible enough to change in response to new organisational circumstances, market and industry conditions, business priorities and objectives, budgetary constraints, available skill sets and core competencies, technology advances, and user needs.

Basics of an IT strategy

A strong IT strategy provides a blueprint of how technology supports and shapes the organization’s overall business strategy.  Its strategic goals should mirror business projects (business alignment) and take into account the needs of key stakeholders including employees, customers and business partners.

The strategy should offer a look at the organisation’s current technology posture and provide an idea of where IT should head over the next three to five years.

There are different models that help executives construct an IT strategy, yet most contain certain key elements including:

  • A high-level overview of the IT department that covers its mission, core values, objectives and approaches to accomplishing its goals.
  • Current budgets and spending forecasts for a multiyear timeline.
  • An outline of current and future IT projects and initiatives with timelines and milestones.
  • A catalogue of existing enterprise architecture; IT department capabilities and capacities; and future needs and requirements with details about infrastructure, staffing and other necessary resources.
  • An analysis of IT strengths and weaknesses.
  • A list of the internal and external forces (such as market and industry trends) that shape current technology requirements and innovations as well as the future forces expected to shape IT.
  • A prediction of the potential opportunities and vulnerabilities that will necessitate technology responses to best position the organization for success.

Although the IT strategy by its very nature needs to address complex technology details, it should not be considered a technical document, but rather a business document. As such, it should be written in clear, concise language that’s free of technical jargon.

Why every company needs one

 An IT strategy has become a critical element for organisational leadership. Its growing importance mirrors the rise of technology itself as a critical element for business success. The importance of an IT strategy has been amplified over the past few years as organisations focus on Digital Transformation and thriving in the digital age. Technology is essential for creating new business models, products and services; enhancing customer service as well as customer experiences; increasing sales; enabling workers and improving productivity and supporting interactions with vendors and other business partners.

As such, organisations must formulate a technology strategy to accomplish those things as well as compete against others with the same objectives.

How to create an IT strategy

Just as there are varying models for the document itself, there are multiple ways to approach the creation of an IT strategy. Still, commonalities exist, such as an initial review of the organisation’s existing strategic IT plan and related documents.

This should be followed by an assessment of how the organisation is meeting established objectives, milestones, benchmarks and relevant key performance indicators. This assessment should identify the technology currently in use and the gaps that exist between these current IT operations and the objectives and strategic goals outlined in the ongoing strategic plans.

Senior IT leaders need to collaborate with their business-side counterparts to further develop the IT strategy. They should also seek out other resources, such as research reports, to understand the business and technology trends that will impact their organisation’s market.

All this creates the groundwork to develop short-term and long-term objectives, budget projections, technology predictions and the perceived future opportunities and vulnerabilities that go into the technology strategy along with the corresponding summaries needed for the final document.

Implementation

A strong IT strategy relies not just on creating the plan, but also on proper implementation of it.  These documents won’t do any good if they’re ignored after completion!

They should be used to guide tactical technology decisions, thereby helping the IT department align its day-to-day operations with the overall business model and mission.

However, adherence to the IT strategy should not be overly rigid.  The fast pace of technology advancements and innovation require organisations to be agile if they want to seize upon new, sometimes unforeseen, developments that can help them be more competitive or better serve their market.

The IT strategy needs to be flexible and business executives should expect to reassess and redevelop the it at least annually, to ensure that tactical plans align and to verify that the technology strategy remains aligned with the overall organisational mission as it changes in response to shifting dynamics.

 

 

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