How To Develop an Effective IT Strategic Plan

The only way to meet the current and future IT needs will be to have a comprehensive plan that reviews the current requirements and accurately forecasts spending over a multi-year timeline. The IT plan needs to be reviewed and compared against the organization’s strategic and tactical plans and revised accordingly on at least a yearly basis. So, how do you develop and keep such a plan current?

#1 – Align Organizations Strategic Goals with IT Projects.

Developing an effective IT strategic plan should first start with a review of the organizations strategic plan to list the areas where technology could enhance or enable such plans become apparent. When reviewing IT projects during the budget process, consideration should be given to projects which contribute to achieving the strategic goals of the organization. If you are in real Estate business and one of your strategic goals is to become “a premier provider of Maintenance services”, then Technology projects such as systems for service management for incidents and monitoring of tickets should be implemented to improve the quality and enable smooth running of the service.

#2 – Interview the IT System Users

You should develop mechanism to collect information from the leadership and the team in a variety of ways so that common patterns can be extrapolated and the trend and direction be seen from the analysis of the information. Interviews and group settings tend to make people more comfortable and make them open up and more information can be harvested. You can use tools like questionnaires, surveys, Individual Interviews, strengths/Weaknesses/Opportunities/Threats (S.W.O.T.s) to collect the data which later can be sorted  and patterns or consistent themes be identified. Information collected is mainly the opinion on current IT systems and the future investment to be made .Issues like poor utilization of IT equipment due to lack of training or to buy or build new software etc. can be discovered.

#3 – Benchmark the Current IT setup and IT Expenditure

You can benchmark your organization with the help of a consultant. You need to understand that organizations vary in terms of size, employees and the customers they serve. The following things must be looked at in your evaluation.

  • What is your IT leadership hierarchy, managers, CIO etc. compared to others?
  • What is the size and scope of the current IT setup?
  • What are the responsibilities of the staff and job descriptions compared to other organizations?
  • Benchmark IT expenditure against others to see how your organization invests.
  • Ask questions: Is IT considered a “cost” of doing business or an “enabler” of the business to succeed? How is project funding justifiable?  How are systems managed, do they get replaced when damaged or upgraded? Does IT leadership communicate goals to the Team? Would outsourcing lower IT expenditures?

#4 – Software Applications and Systems Review

Its Common that applications get outdated and new applications and systems which are affordable and cost effective can be integrated in the existing IT system and save costs and increase production but the costs of implementation must not be taken lightly. Proper research and consultations must be done and informed decisions be made before making replacements as this affects organizations performance. The idea is to know what you have, what you can improve and what you can afford and where you can get it.

The best way to start the process is to review each application: Who are the “owners”? , What are the needs of the current “owners”? , is it considered for replacement or enhancements?  .

#5 – what are the Gaps between the current status and the Strategic Goals?

In this step you should know the gaps as you should be well informed with what the organization has and plans to be. You have aligned goals, interviewed the organization staff, checked current IT setup, analyzed current needs and identified weaknesses that require changes. You have reviewed the existing IT organization, staff and budget and have reviewed the current list of applications and determined whether they are meeting the current needs of the organization. This information will help you identify the gaps between the desired state and the current state of the IT organization. Gaps can be of different areas of the IT setup like: IT staff may be improperly sized to support growth or meet the current needs, Applications may be identified for replacement sooner than expected, End-users lack sufficient training, and IT hardware and infrastructure may need to be replaced.

#6 – Develop Projects Timeline

This step is mainly done with IT staff and consultants as they understand the technology and the process better. Now the gaps have been identified, you can now prioritize projects over a period of years and create that the IT vision over a given time frame. If you have identified projects like training, Wi-Fi connections for remote areas, future growth could lead require extra hand in database section etc. then you plan can be

  • 1st Year – Hire a coaching expert to train users on systems to get full benefits
  • 2nd Year – Implement Wi-Fi technology across the communities to support the wireless business needs.
  • 3rd Year – Outsource a Database administrator

#7 – Have a Leader

Someone must represent IT Team in the leadership chain it can be an IT in charge, a manager, an IT Director Etc. since the vision has been created the goals need to be constantly updated to reflect the changes in the strategic plan due to economy or organizations goals change. Consider including a representative on these teams as well as at board meetings if appropriate. Operations meetings should be attended on a regular basis so that tactical and strategic performance can be considered as the plan is reviewed. If you follow the above steps as an organization, you will be able to develop an IT Strategic Plan that is in alignment with the organization goals, and will be dynamic and grow with the company.

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Yassir Al Ammar
Yassir Al Ammar 6 posts

Yassir Al Ammar is a Management and IT Consultant from Mombasa, Kenya.He is also an Author, Speaker and Trainer in the fields of Business, Management & IT. He can be contacted at yassir@yascomafrica.com

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