How important do you think your company’s IT strategy is?
If you thought you could have some vague estimates figured out, of where you are and where you would like to go, and then you would work out the rest of the elements on the fly, then I’m afraid you too are part of the 50% of firms that don’t consider their IT investments to be important.
That’s right. Most businesses consider investments in IT a huge priority to increase customer and partner engagement, but often end up seeing workforce automation technologies as cost centres, rather than as opportunities for competitive advantage. The main reason for this is the lack of a proper vision, and viable systems necessary to execute the plan.
“A company’s IT plan can decide whether it is going to float above or sink in today’s cutthroat marketplace”
Hence, CIOs, like you, need to have a clearly defined IT strategy to guide your organization towards success. And drawing up such a detailed plan in black and white is not an easy task. You need to take your time to include a number of elements relating to your business and technology. But it also needs to be concise.
Essentials of an effective IT strategy
Here are some elements that an ideal strategic IT plan should have:
- Executive summary – As any business plan or document, a strategic IT plan should also start with the executive summary. It is basically a clear, concise and effective statement that summarizes the major objectives of the IT strategy. These objectives should be in line with the company’s overall goals, vision, and mission, which should all be specified in the document as well. It should also include a rundown of the processes that are going to be followed to achieve the objectives. All this should be done keeping in mind the intended audience, that is, the business.
- Scope review – The scope of the specific requirements of the business is required in an IT plan, to help IT map out the technological needs of the company for the future. This can be done using several methods like conducting gap analysis, industry analysis and even internal assessments like, surveys and interviews. Once the strengths and weaknesses in the operations and procedures are figured out, the technology needs become clear.
- Business Context – The business context is a more detailed and extensive explanation of the specific objectives driving the IT strategy. It also explains the intended end results and targets of the IT plan. It includes the business objectives, priorities as well as a roadmap of the goals, which could be in the form of a visual representation. It should also include metrics that describe the position of the organization’s IT in the present day and the target state that you wish to achieve.
- Strategic initiatives – These include the projects, activities, and initiatives that are essential for achieving the entire IT plan. It can be in the form of a list, along with a statement of purpose meant for IT decision makers to execute the plan effectively.
- Review – The review consists of highlights and major points of the accomplishments of IT in the previous year along with the elements and resource requirements of the current year. It can include a detailed analysis of the company’s progress over the previous year, in meeting goals, with proper explanation as to which were goals were met and which were not, what were the challenges that were faced and the like.
These pointers are sure to help you draft your strategic IT plan. Once the plan is in place, CIOs need to work in close collaboration with all departments of the organization, to direct all efforts towards the discussed goals. Since, all aspects of the plan, including the technology gaps and risks that exist, the means and resources needed to cover them and overall requirements of the business are drawn out, your IT plan will be successful.
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We have all heard of a lot of business professionals talking about “aligning IT with their business”. Have you ever wondered about the relevance or meaning of that statement?
While alignment means to bring something in line with something, it implies that the technology that a business adopts should be in line with its business, thus putting the business in the frontline.
Now, not that such “alignment” is not important, but in the current business scenario, it just won’t be enough. When business takes the lead, it is supported by IT, but the strategies are still in the hands of the business. It basically sets the pace. This takes away the effectiveness of IT to a large extent.
“IT can do way more than just being in line with business”
Over the years, IT has proved how it can improve the efficiencies of people and organizations, which literally leads to growth. Thus, the real need at the moment is for IT to lead the way, take control of business goals and initiate growth efforts.
The role of the CIO in empowering IT
Most businesses adopt technology for their business, with the intention of automating work and increasing efficiencies. Why? Because of the idea that there is a better, faster and more efficient way of doing work and that IT can enable it.
But halfway through adoption, many organizations today lose this sync and the effectiveness of IT gets affected. It somehow fails to deliver the expected efficiency increase.
It is up to the CIOs to clearly define the connection between IT and business growth, and lead his team, with a progressive attitude.
Benny Kirsh, while he was CIO at Kyphon, led the IT team, that literally drove the deployment of a quality assurance system for the compliance of FDA regulations. This leadership initiative of his, helped in reducing the time-to-close complaints by 35% and also increased the on-time training of users by 42%. It basically included an automated documentation system along with version control, providing a compliant working environment, thus helping in reducing discrepancies during FDA audits. Overall, the whole system helped in increasing the sales as well, while at the same time eliminating expensive FDA issues too.
Thus, Benny Kirsh was able to lead his IT team towards being proactive and resolving issues, while also encouraging them to come up with new ideas on ways to generate more revenue.
Likewise, CIOs need to work in close coordination with their IT teams, guiding and leading them towards new innovations and implementations to spur business growth rate. They need to create awareness among team members, about the importance of IT and how it can impact business.
An innovation culture
The CIOs who lead the IT team of an organization need to be true leaders so as to facilitate IT to drive the growth of the business. As mentioned before, it is up to them to inculcate habits of being proactive and creative as well, among their team.
Now true leaders are not the ones that simply sit down and pass orders. They get into the heart of things, take risks and put themselves in with the rest of the crowd. Once, a particular effort towards innovation becomes even a tad bit successful, newer ideas and concepts can be easily initiated and taken forward. But in order to get there, it requires more than just a system of assignment and accomplishment of duties.
IT must be made to be a part of business. CIOs need to bring about a culture of innovation by allowing, and as a matter of fact, encouraging their teams to play with new technologies and induce creativity. Discussions and whiteboarding sessions may also be used to make people think out of the box. It is important to create a work environment that encourages the generation of new business ideas.
IT has to be given the space to read, learn and come up with new ideas. Otherwise, they will only stick to completing their tasks, thus limiting the scope. It is all about the culture and CIOs need to take care of it.
IT is more than just a “cost-center”
IT in a business enterprise is often considered for certain specific goals alone. This is what limits their effectiveness as mentioned before. They are more than just a cost center. They have the potential to drive the business as a whole. When made a part of the organization culture, IT tends to bring more efficiency. Even in-house tools can do the trick.
For example, a simple comprehensive data analytics tool such as a dashboard can improve performances and efficiency drastically. They can help save a lot of time and money and impact a great deal in decision making as well. Have a look at Corporate Dashboards: Means to Save Time, Money and Reputation to know more.
Such tools along with the right culture for innovation can work out in the best way for your business. Rewards and appraisals in between for the best innovations can also go a long way.
Be open to every new innovation and let IT take your business forward.