Trying to plan your department around change in an era where technology disruption is becoming the norm is like looking into a crystal ball with a blindfold on. But there are a few things you can do to make sure you’re prepared and ahead of the curve when it comes to IT changes.
Think about the business, as well as the tech
The implications of technological advancements on your existing business model should, of course, be part of your strategic planning. But you also need to think about alternative business models that might be facilitated by fast-moving tech developments. If you can think of a way that someone could disrupt your business model and steal market share from your company utilising a different approach, you can be sure that someone else has thought of it, and is working on implementing it.
Be your own worst enemy
Encourage your company to have “opposition research” sessions, where they plan different ways to disrupt your current business model, and incorporate the best ideas that emerge from these sessions into future planning.
Keep a war chest
Make sure that, whatever your IT budget, you have a portion of it aside for unexpected developments. Keep costs down by out-tasking services that don’t require full-time staffing, taking advantage of cost-savings delivered by advances like cloud storage and Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS)/Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and divert funds saved into a budget line that’s specifically devoted to innovation and managing emerging or disruptive tech.
Develop a data policy
Business data is proliferating wildly, and those businesses who approach data strategically and creatively will be those who benefit first and most from the Big Data revolution. Ensure that your company has a data plan that takes into account the resources available, the business needs of the company, and the data available so that you’re producing actionable insights that will drive and transform your core business.
Prepare a holistic plan
The IT strategic plan should not be just about projects. It needs to critically examine all aspects of IT management and IT capability within the organisation. Achieving organisational goals often needs attention to aspects such as the enterprise architecture, investment planning and governance, people planning and performance management practices. Inclusion of initiatives in this area would cover all critical IT aspects.
Demonstrate flexibility during planning
Strategic perspectives evolve and develop as planning progresses and discussions take place. Maintaining flexibility allows IT to adapt to the changes and agree to goals that best reflect the organisational realities. An open mind during the strategic planning process will help identify omissions and unrealistic goals, resulting in a better plan and greater buy-in.
Understand and measure how information technology will enable the business
Business alignment has become a trite phrase. In the context of an IT strategic plan, understanding how IT can help improve performance of the enterprise is critical. Can IT enable the business bring products and services to market faster or cheaper? Can IT change to meet realities of new competition, restructures and other major business changes? It is not just the capabilities that must be aligned. IT expenditure and capital budget also need to be aligned with what business can support.
IT strategic goals and performance measures should have a direct linkage with the enterprise performance goals. If improving customer service or satisfaction is an enterprise wide performance measure, IT should demonstrate how it is supporting this goal. This sounds obvious, but in many organisations IT performance goals have no obvious or automatic link to the organisation’s goals. The effort is worthwhile because it helps to define the value of IT spending, a critical step tracking the results of capital investments for IT.
Revisit and revise
Businesses are not static. Regulation, competition, technology or environmental changes necessitate plan adjustments. Most organisations have a strategic planning cycle. Revisiting the plan, checking progress and goals and adjusting as necessary in a formal and structured manner will keep the plan aligned to the business needs. For implementation to be successful, it needs to be treated as a change program, with the right sponsorship, stakeholder engagement and communications.
Stephen Sims is Brennan IT’s General Manager for Sales and Marketing.