Strategic Planning for IT: Setting Objectives

Yesterday, we started looking at the process of developing an IT strategic plan. The first stage was about understanding the needs of the business. Armed with that knowledge, you can now embark on the next step — planning how you’re going to meet those needs.

Technologists love fixing problems. We see a user with a problem and we suggest a new application or gadget. A department identifies a process issue and we step up with a new application — often developed as a side project by a member of the IT department.

The IT strategy needs to take a step back from suggesting specific solutions – for now.

When you review the requirements you gathered from each department and major stakeholder during step one, you’ll find that many of them can be easily grouped together. For example, senior management might want to ensure that they can access sales data when travelling overseas. Sales representatives want to remotely access sales data and enter transactions while they’re on the road.

Those can be grouped together under a general heading of “Remote Data Access”.

This is where IT pros need to resist their urge to jump into solution mode. The strategy doesn’t need to come up with a specific solution to the problem yet. That comes later when the strategy is used to create shorter-term tactical and operational plans.

As you work through the requirements and group them you’ll likely end up with a relatively tight list of strategic objectives. It might not seem it at the start of the process, but you will be able to reduce the long list of requirements down to a limited number high-level objectives.

In order for the plan to get the buy-in of the whole business these high level objectives need to be expressed and described in business language. The technical detail will come next, during the third stage of the plan’s development.

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