Scott Vickland / / Categories: Executive View

What's Your IT Strategy?

Introduction to IT Strategy 

Many of our customers have relatively small information technology teams. Think just a handful of IT professionals. They are usually focused on the most important aspects of an organization’s IT needs: network management, security, and infrastructure. This reflects any organization’s fundamental IT needs (i.e. getting access to the internet and networked resources, identity management, access controls, anti-virus, servers, storage devices, cloud administration, and user endpoints.) When we ask what the organization’s IT strategy is, we usually get something like “Keep email working” or “Make sure everyone has access to the internet.” But is that a strategy? Surely, making email work and getting staff connected to the internet are good things, but are they strategies? If not, what then is an IT strategy? 

Let’s first define “strategy.” The simplest definition is strategy as a plan, that is, strategy is course of action to achieve a set of goals. 

Ok, that’s pretty straightforward. So, how does this get us any closer to an IT strategy? For any IT strategy, what might the goals be? And what would a course of action be? You could say that the goal of an IT strategy is to move everyone to the cloud. Everyone seems to be doing that so that would seem to make sense, but is it what the organization needsAs good as it might be, a move to the cloud should not be the end itself. Instead, it should provide the organization with a feature or capability it needs. The goal then should be “Enhanced Mobility for All Staff.” The course of action then would be “Migrate Everyone to the Cloud.” Another course of action might be “Distribute Laptops to all Staff.” Those two steps contribute to the organization’s goal of enhanced mobility. 

The goal, then, of an IT strategy is enabling the success of the organization. The IT strategy is NOT deploying a successful disaster recovery solution. It is NOT moving the organization to the cloud. It is NOT implementing multi-factor authentication. Those are courses of action. 

Like we did above, we can hazard a guess about the organizational goals associated with these courses of action. Let’s see what that looks like. 

Organization Goal 

IT Course of Action 

We need business continuity 

Build a disaster recovery solution 

We need to be more mobile 

Migrate the organization to the cloud 

We need to secure the company 

Implement MFA 

 

Another good step is to articulate the IT Course of Action with the “why?” For example, “Build a disaster recovery solution so data and tools the business relies on are not lost as the result of a disaster.” Another might be “Migrate the organization to the cloud so that workers can be productive any place they have a browser and a network connection.” Finally, “Implement MFA to protect the enterprise from the introduction of malware which might jeopardize the organization’s financial health and reputation.”  

What should be obvious by now is that IT’s course of action FOLLOWS from the Organization Goal. In general, IT doesn’t take any initiative unless it supports, furthers, leverages, aligns with the organization’s goals. So, how does IT figure out what the Organization Goals are? It’s unlikely anyone from the organization is going to approach IT and say, “Here are our goals. We need business continuity.” No, it is IT’s responsibility to sort this out. There are, fortunately, a variety of ways: 

  • IT can ask 
  • IT can consult the organization’s strategic plan 
  • IT can compare the organization to similar organizations in terms of size and market 
  • IT can assess where technology is going and whether and how the organization should keep pace. 

For those of us in IT, it’s not fair. We all know that few in the business take the time to understand how IT works, but we in IT are expected to understand what it is that animates the organization. IT must see the landscape both for the business-side and technology-side and envision how tools can enhance the organization’s likelihood of success.  

If you are just starting out in this journey, consider the first option described above and ASK. Schedule formal and informal sessions with stakeholders from the business. What are their pain points? What could be improved? What information do they need? What decisions are hard to make? What applications or tools have they used elsewhere that would make sense in your organization? What are the top three things they would like to have to make their jobs easier? These questions and others like them can help you to elicit business needs which point the way to tools IT can deploy to meet those needs.  

Many organizations have a strategic plan which outlines where the enterprise expects to be in a certain period of time (i.e. 10 years, 20 years.) It could be articulated in terms of a market share the business aspires to, certain specific accomplishments, the size of the business, reputational aspirations, whatever. The point is that the plan articulates where the business wants to be at some point in the future. IT can use this document to understand business goals and imagine ways that IT could facilitate meeting those goals. The advantage of this approach is that if the business agrees with IT’s course of action in support of those goals, IT is more likely to get the resources it requires to deliver those tools. 

Your competitors may be further ahead in their technology journey than you are. What are they doing? What applications do they have in place? What integrations? What reporting are they doing? How much are they spending on IT? Answers to these questions can help you figure out what initiatives to introduce as well as demonstrate that further investments in IT can help your company’s competitive position. 

Many IT organizations are locked in time. Infrastructure decisions were made at a critical juncture, maybe significant investments were made. But since then, it’s been assumed that all troubles are taken care of and no additional funding on new technologies is necessary. Often a major change is accompanied by a re-assessment of where the organization is in terms of infrastructure and staff, but no changes are seen as necessary afterward. The problem with this approach is things change so rapidly in technology. Three years is a lifetime in IT. Keep an eye on your roadmaps and how the technology your vendors provide is changing. Make sure your investments keep pace. 

If you’re struggling with this and would like to make some progress, reach out to our Strategic Advisory Services practice for help at connect@enablingtechcorp.com. 

 

Work with our team of Cloud Computing Consultants who have done this so many times they know all of the “minefields” to prevent missteps.

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