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11/26/2003
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SmartAdvice: How To Develop An IT Strategic Plan

Developing an IT strategy will help better-align your department with the business, The Advisory Council suggests. It also identifies three key leadership responsibilities and offers tips to protect your servers from hacker attacks.

Editor's Note: Welcome to SmartAdvice, a new weekly column by The Advisory Council, a Westport, Conn.-based business-technology advisory service. Each week the column will spotlight TAC's advice on two or three issues of core interest to you, ranging from career advice to enterprise strategies to how to deal with vendors. We encourage you to write to TAC and request answers to pressing business-technology issues. They will not solicit you unless asked, and will respond to you here or directly via E-mail at smartadvice@tacadvisory.com.

Topic A: How do I develop a 2004 information-technology plan when the company itself doesn't have a strategic plan?

Our advice: An information-technology strategy helps to fulfill a business strategy. If the organization hasn't formalized such a strategy, then IT executives can help the business managers to draw up such plans. To develop an IT strategy without a company strategic plan, you'll have to identify the de facto business objectives, priorities, and results on your own and use them to build your IT road map.

Company Vision, Mission, and Objectives
Creating an IT strategic plan requires a focal point, which is usually drawn from the corporate vision, mission, and objectives. If a written statement doesn't exist, an unwritten understanding almost always does. The first step for an IT strategy is to clarify this business vision, mission, and objectives. The vision may be a simple slogan: "Service with a Smile" or "Shelter for Everyone," or a more detailed statement. Often, the means to achieve the vision is equally important, such as "increasing long-term shareholder value," or "improved services for the homeless." By looking at these objectives you can derive your specific goals for the coming year.

Business-Driven Priorities
Even if there's no strategic plan at the business level, organizational sub-units usually have:

  • Growth plans (revenue, staffing, etc.);


  • Action plans to meet objectives;


  • Spending plans;


  • Sales targets;


  • Upcoming acquisitions or partnerships, and;


  • Plans to lower the cost of operations.

These plans can be used to help create next year's technology plan, and are often indicators of the unstated corporate strategy. Draw them out by having your senior IT managers interview the business leaders. In addition, the IT organization has a wealth of data of its own that can help you plan for future growth, as described below.

Results-Driven Strategy
Your IT plan also should take into consideration and be based upon past accomplishments and information use:

  • Current Technology Usage -- Outline your accomplishments for the previous year, highlighting technology usage by organizational unit;


  • IT Resource Allocation -- Establish a resource and business impact list: To which specific business function does each resource contribute? Use data from existing technology use, such as growth in help-desk calls, disk utilization, server capacity, disaster prevention, etc., to show trends;


  • Technology Architecture -- Define an overall technology architecture that shows the governance of processes as well as the applications and the infrastructure.


  • Contact the organizational units directly to find out what plans they have for next year and:

  • Brief them on the above data;


  • Ask them about areas of additional investment in technology that the unit plans to make, and areas where they need your support;


  • If the business units have either financial or other production and sales objectives, ask what specific technology is required to meet these objectives, and how it will be funded;


  • Use your IT resource-allocation information to suggest additional investments, and;


  • Provide easy-to-fill-in templates to collect project details.

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