How long should your IT strategy be?

I usually develop two strategies after completing an IT assessment.

First, a tactical strategy that entails the next 60-90 days, but could be up to 180 days (6 months). Once I get my staff focused on the “immediate” targets of our tactical plan, I begin working on developing the strategic IT plan.

The strategic plan is usually focused on the next 18-24 months unless my company wants something longer like a 3-year strategy or a 5-year plan. If that’s the case, my primary focus still tends to be on the first two years, , , and the strategy elements beyond two years get much more general in nature.

The reason I try to keep my IT strategies focused to two years is because you can see two years out, but technology is changing so fast that it can get pretty blurry beyond two years.

Think about this for a second. Look back to 2005, just five years ago. Lots of change and many innovations have occurred in the last five years, , , and technology continues to change at a faster and faster rate.

I have been in the IT world since 1969 and I can tell you that we take many things for granted. For example, most of you reading this article were not in IT before the spreadsheet. Prior to Excel and Lotus 1-2-3, it was Visicalc that revolutionized the accounting world by eliminating paper and pencil, , , and lots of erasers.

You might also be surprised to learn that we didn’t always have project management methodologies, let alone project management certifications like PMP thirty years ago.

Have you paid attention to the advances in PC and laptop technology? The power and capacity keeps going up while the price falls. The 300GB disk drive capacity alone in the Lenovo ThinkPad I carry around would have required some 6,000 square feet of floor space 30 years ago, , , and think of the heat all these disk drives created. In fact, one of the Division Headquarters of IBM actually heated its building from the heat created from the CPU’s, disk and tape drives that had less disk capacity than my laptop.

That’s right, many of the things we have today and take for granted had to be developed as new technologies, methodologies, and tools. What will be great about this is that in ten or twenty years from now, we will look back at what we have today and think we sure were struggling compared to what we will be able to do then.

Enjoy the fact that technology is doing so much to improve our lives, , , but be careful when you try to forecast or build your IT strategies beyond two years out.

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