I put a lot of effort into getting an IT strategy right, because it sets the scene for the future. And I want people to get excited about the future and the opportunities for growth that it will bring. Good strategy, as Richard P. Rumelt describes in his book Good Strategy Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why It Matters, relies on a clear understanding on current capability, a clear vision of the future, and the kernel of a practicable approach that will get an organisation from current to future state. Good strategy means listening a whole lot, asking heaps of questions, and suggesting ideas until something resonates.
In an IT strategy engagement, we would normally:
- Hold a quick kickoff meeting – this is where we talk about the process of developing the strategy, who needs to be involved (key stakeholders), and any aspects that come to mind or need focus.
- Understand the vision for IT. In many cases, this does not exist – even if there was an IT strategy in place. From one aspect, this is difficult because technology seems to be changing so rapidly that it would appear difficult to predict what it might look like out on the planning horizon of 3 or even 5 years time. On the other hand, not much has changed. Many are still looking to flatten or reduce their IT spend and to offer better ways for staff to work more efficiently between themselves and with their clients.
- Collect current state information – on all aspects of IT architecture – physical (ie the actual hardware and software that lives on the hardware), logical (the functions that each physical thing performs) and network (how they are connected together). It is usually at this point that we begin to get a feeling for possible weaknesses and areas for improvement.
- Identify and interview key stakeholders. These interviews usually go for 30 mins but can go to 60 if there is a lot to talk about.
- Hold a workshop to bring the perceptions and ideas of key stakeholders together so that we end up with common understanding.
- Document the IT strategy based on all of the above.
It’s easy to develop an IT strategy. It’s hard to develop a good IT strategy. It’s even harder to execute good IT strategy – and to keep coming back to the strategy to check on how you are going. But being part of an organisation that executes good IT strategy is like being in a symphony – an incredibly uplifting experience.