Knowing and understanding the needs of your business is one thing but delivering them is where the rubber hits the road for IT departments. Translating the requirements of key organizational stakeholders into solutions is a critical element of your IT strategic plan is where your team’s technical skills and delivery capability can shine.
Many IT plans are little more than long lists of projects. The trouble is that those projects need a business context. Without context, the C-suite and other key influencers are unlikely to have much buy-in to the IT plan.
In the previous stage of plan development, you distilled the many different specific needs of the business into a shortlist of high-level requirements that were expressed in business terms. You now need to take all of that to create a list of potential projects that will satisfy those objectives.
For example, yesterday, we said that there was a requirement from senior management to have remote access to sales reporting and for the sales team to be able to see customer information when on the road. There are several ways that can be achieved. For example, you could establish a secure connection to a terminal server running a reporting application, build a smartphone or tablet application or deploy a new sales management system that addresses data access issues.
The trick in this stage is to provide enough clarity that you have a plan with information such as project titles, approximate timelines and an indication of project size. However, you don’t want to lock yourself into a specific solution yet. Remember, you’re delivering a strategy – not a detailed tactical plan. The deeper detail will come later.
This might take some negotiation with the business if they’re used to IT just being a project delivery factory.
One of the things I did in the plan I recently developed and delivered for a client is to introduce the strategic plan by making it really clear what the plan was designed to achieve. Here’s an excerpt of what I wrote.
There are many ways to look at planning of this type. For the purpose of this document the following methodology is being used.
Operational planning covers the shortest time frame. This covers tasks and activities that occur in a one to four week planning horizon. For example, the addition of a small number of wireless access points to augment an existing network would fit into this horizon.
The tactical planning window includes projects and initiatives anticipated in the one to 12 month timeframe.
Strategic planning is the systematic process of evaluating the organisation’s current state, determining its desired future, and translating this into broadly defined objectives and a sequence of steps to achieve them.
In the final part of this mini-series, I’ll look at some financial planning implications and tying all this together.