When I conduct an IT assessment it is usually to support a company focused on acquiring another company or to do a general IT assessment for a company’s senior management team.
During every assessment, I ask the senior IT manager for his IT strategy.
I get a couple of different reactions. The best reaction is when the CIO hands me a document and agrees to sit down with me to discuss the strategy he has in place.
Far too often, though, I get a blank stare. There is no IT strategy.
I’ve even had students in my IT Manager Institute make a comment that goes like this, “How can we develop an IT strategy when our company doesn’t even have a strategy?”
Your initial reaction is probably that this makes a whole lot of sense – right? It’s logical that if we are to be aligned with the business that to do so would require us to develop our IT strategy off the company’s overall strategy.
My answer to this question is always the same.
Just because your company doesn’t have a strategy doesn’t eliminate the need for you to develop a strategic plan for your IT organization. In fact, developing your IT strategy and sharing it with senior management to gain agreement and commitment might even help the senior executives begin to formalize a company strategy.
If you ask senior management for their company strategy, they may not be able to give you a formal document or something that’s written down. However, I’ve rarely talked to a CEO who didn’t have a good idea about what he was trying to do with the company and what his objectives were for the next couple of years.
Your assessment needs to learn about these things whether it comes from a formal strategic plan document or simply from an interview with senior management.
If the CEO tells you he plans to grow the company by 15-20% in the next two years, you ask him how he plans to do it. These specifics that you pull from the CEO in an IT assessment business discussion can tell you a lot about company strategy, , , again, even though it may not be formalized or written down.
Your IT strategy needs to be focused on supporting the business. Learn about the business, goals and objectives of the business, needs and issues of the business, and challenges of the business, , , and you have a lot to work with in defining what your IT organization needs to work on and the priority of these initiatives.
Don’t let anything become an excuse for not developing an IT strategy. The only way you can insure you will be in sync with your company’s objectives and have the IT organization aligned with the business is to define your strategy and gain agreement with senior management that it’s an appropriate focus. Once they commit to your vision (willing to support and fund it), there is no way for you to be out of sync with the business.
Developing your IT strategy puts you in the driver’s seat, assists in managing your client’s expectations, and helps you control your own destiny. If you don’t have an agreed upon IT strategy, it puts you at risk in being able to achieve success as an IT organization.
I’ve developed several IT strategies when the company didn’t have a corporate strategic plan. My sense is that you cannot afford to skip this. If you do, there is a very good chance your IT organization will be working on things that are not the priorities of your company. You cannot afford for this to happen.
So, the next time someone asks to see your IT strategy, I hope you can sit down with them and start discussing it immediately.