I have been thinking about this question for some time, because there appears to be a gap between IT Departments / Leaders and the rest of the organization. IT departments tend to think in icolation when it comes to the I.T. Plan. I’m generalizing but, this is normal because IT departments believe that the rest of the organization couldn’t possibly understand the complexities of technology let alone know how to implement it. That’s no longer the truth today, everyone has stepped up and learned more and do infact understand far better what technology means and what it can do. That’s not what I want to share with you right now, lets talk about who the I.T. Plan is for.
If the CIO or the person charged with the technology needs of the organization builds an I.T. Plan without consulting all departments and subject matter experts first, should be relieved of duty. The secret to a successful I.T. Strategic Plan is to ensure you have talked with all areas of the organization. It’s a MUST! If you don’t, you have no way of knowing what they struggle with, what they would like to be able to do, and what things they would like you to fix. The subject matter experts in the organization are your greatest allies, they can help you execute incredible customer service. The organization will know you care about each person, that makes buy in much easier when change takes place in systems they use.
Your responsibility is to deliver the right solutions, the right technology and above the best customer service to your organization. It has nothing to do with technology, it’s about people and always will be. The I.T. Strategic Plan is a road map for the IT Staff, it lays out the years work, and how you will serve the organization on a daily basis.
So, who is the I.T. Strategic Plan for? Who do you think and why?
Last year I wrote an article called ” I.T. Decisions – Who Makes Them In Your Organization? “. Often the wrong people are making these decisions, they aren’t bad people but they should rely on those who work with Technology and understand the implications of making the wrong choices. One of the best ways to prevent the wrong people from making I.T. decisions is to make sure all business processes are well documented and measured (weighted). Why you ask?
- If all subject matter experts in your business were to document their business processes, you would know exactly what each staff person has to do each and everyday to get the job done.
- You then have a foundation to measure the right software applications for your business
- These business processes can now be measured and weighted to help make I.T. decisions for your organization
Those are just few but you should be getting the idea.
There are many ways of handling the task of measuring business processes but I’ll try to keep it simple for you. There are two things I would recommend:
- Build a Database (MySQL or SQL) to store your business processes & the weighting
- Build Excel Worksheets to enter & pull these processes and weights from the Database
Years ago I had a couple of really sharp guys working for me, they built a nifty application (system) for us to measure our business processes against features in software applications. We wanted to have a snapshot of how each application matched up against each other, the problem is we didn’t have an easy way to see all our requirements on one page. We also didn’t know which processes were more important than others.
The first step is to pull your key subject matter experts together, get all business processes documented for each role in the organization. This ensured you knew what tasks had to be completed each and everyday to do business. Depending on your business this can be an easy job or a labour intensive one. I highly recommend this gets done regardless of how hard or how long it takes, because it makes future upgrades and or the decision to change a core application in your organization much easier.
Once you have your business processes documented you have something to work with when deciding what software or ERP systems implement, this job takes time but it’s well worth it. Enter these processes into your database, then build spreadsheets to pull that data out for review.
In your database you want to also store a measurement we’ll call weighting for this example. Why? When you sitdown and have software demonstrated you can ask key questions, does this software do this and that from your database. Afterall, you are asking directly from how you do business (your documented business processes). You now want to be able to give that process a score or measurement when sitting in these demonstrations. Your scale might look like this:
1 – Does it well and is easy to use
3 – Does it but not well – not easy to figure out or use
5 – May need to be modified
9 – Not sure – need more information
0 – Doesn’t do it at all
In your spreadsheet you would use the above scale to measure the software you are looking at on a business process by business process basis. Sounds tedious doesn’t it? It is when setting things up the first time, after that it gets much easier because you don’t need to build it again.
This is just one way of measuring your business process against software, you could and should group your business processes by importance as well. That way you know exactly what you MUST have and what the NICE to have’s would be.
I hope that helps, feel free to conatct me if you have questions or wish to go through this process for your business.
I would love your feedback, what do you think and do you have a better way?
This technically could be the last section of your plan, this is where you take a high level look at the plan and existing challenges that may hamper your ability to deliver on any said item. Depending on who and how I.T. decisions are made in your organization could literally dismantle your strategy on many levels. I wrote on this topic back June 2009, it’s called I.T. Decisions – Who Makes Them In Your Organization?
Once you’ve finished this section you can then do an Executive Summary for the purposes of presenting to your Executive Team and or Board of Directors. Here is a short hypothetical example of this section:
A one year planning and budgeting cycle creates significant difficulties for the I.T. Department to execute the early stages of this plan.
- Hardware and software have to be upgraded or replaced regularly, either to take advantage of newer technologies or reduce maintenance fees. However, sometimes an upgrade would make long term sense but cannot be done because it is too large for a one year budget. This has resulted in a series of sub-optimal short term purchasing decisions being made.
- Recent budget cuts have forced a multi-year upgrade schedule to be differed resulting in perpetually out-of-date technology.
- Many projects take longer than one year to complete and require both tools and personnel at the start-up stage, but will not see significant results until the subsequent year.
- A new service is anticipated to be required by a department in a future year but the department lacks sufficient budget or approval to such an expenditure; however, there might be sufficient lead time for IT to prepare the infrastructure; does IT ” risk it ” and build the infrastructure anyway?
That’s just snippet of what you might put in this Planning Observations section, I suggest you pull your top three together to ensure you are covering the critical issues. You’ll want your IT leaders to be in the loop especially if you are seeking additional budget and it gets rejected, they may be able to assist you with other creative ways to turn the rejection around.
We looked at Markets in the 1st part of the Analysis section of our plan, and in this post I want to share with you about Key Success Factors you’ll want to identify for your I.T. Strategic Plan. Every business has them and some even know what they might be but many don’t, these are things that you believe you are delivering or close to delivering at 100% in your organization. These would indicators that allow the organization to have a high level of productivity. You might think hiring smart people would fit in here but they don’t, they actually fall under the next category in our Analysis called Core Competencies.
Think of this area similarly to fixed assets that can be modified or changed, (sounds like an oxymoron but…) here are a few to consider:
1. Application software availability approaching 100%
2. Network availability approaching 100%
3. Provide Infrastructure and tools for appropriate access to data by staff
Those may be reasons why your organization is able to function at a higher level of productivity, resulting in greater results and possibly profitability. Again, only you and your team can decide what these Key Success Factors might be, they are important to making your case when securing your next years budget. The entire I.T. Strategic Plan plays a huge role in your budget and your job security over the next 3 – 5 years.
Even having a rough draft of your I.T. Strategic Plan gives you a solid view of what your organization is doing and or shifting towards, and to meet customer demands. Consider how this allows you to see patterns and an opportunities, giving you ample time to make adjustments before delivering this plan to executives and board of directors. Regardless of who you have to deliver this message to, the exercise helps you and your team more, it’s a guide or a map of where you are going and what you need to do.
Your primary customers that can undo you the fastest are those you work closest with, staff and field staff, word of mouth there needs to be top drawer or you’ll have a short window of opportunity to do what you do best. Customer support on ALL levels has to be the best you can provide to prevent a change you can’t control.
In the next session I’ll touch on Core Competencies.
We’ve covered Vision & Mission, KRA’s and Objectives so far, today I want to talk to you about Action Plans. As you know nothing happens without action of some sort, even writing this article requires action on my part. This area of your strategic plan does not have to be an exhaustive list but a substantial one, these items should also have dates beside them as targets for delivery or completion.
This list might look like a To Do List in or on any other document but this is your bigger picture stuff that goes into your short & long term plans. I am listing for you a few items that might be on your list but you’ll have to assess your situation and build your list. This action list should be in line with some or all items listed in your objectives, this list will cover a broad scope of projects & items you want to get done over the next 12 to 18 to 24 months. Also keep in mind this list is not written in stone, it is like a budget, it’s a guide to keep you on track with the organizations needs. You may make changes to this plan as circumstances arise and technology advances.
1. Identify the most effective software package for the organization – 2Q – 2010
2. Prepare 5 year budget for core applications – 3Q – 2010
3. To prepare a general implementation plan and schedule for core applications for the next 18 – 24 months – 3Q – 2010
4. Develop strategy to train staff – 3Q – 2010
5. Complete a formal review of Network Infrastructure – 2Q – 2010
This list could have over 20 projects or items on it, it’s like a to do list you want to complete in a timely fashion in the upcoming months. At this point you have been assessing your organizations needs and requirements, then documenting your findings. You should have met with all departments and subject matter experts to learn as much as you can about the current shortcomings of your existing core applications. You also would have collected a wish list from each department to assist in assessing or identifying the appropriate software package that will handle 80 – 90% of the organizations process. Your goal is to make the staff’s job easier and giving customers better support by automating as many processes as possible.
As you can see these plans can take on different shapes and sizes but you as the I.T. Leader must know your organizations needs, if you don’t, that’s your first task before you can build an intelligent I.T. Strategic Plan. In the next part of our mock plan, we will shift gears and move into the Analysis part of our plan.