Organizations around the world were challenged in unexpected ways by the COVID-19 pandemic. Some companies shut down, while others were able to pivot their strategies (and in some cases, their services and products) to survive in the new, uncertain, and ever-changing environment. The world kept moving with technologies like Zoom, and employees and customers in all industries learned a new way of doing business. As companies plan for 2021, technology can no longer be an afterthought or something relegated to the IT department. To thrive in the new year and beyond, it is critical for organizations to develop a strong IT strategy that will support and enable business goals.
The Value Of An IT Strategy
Technology is unique in that it touches every part of business and has visibility across the organization. The process of developing an IT strategy allows a company to review its business goals and strategy, and then evaluate how technology — people, processes, systems, infrastructure, data and security — supports those goals. A holistic assessment of IT should result in a strategy that is proactive, prioritized and focused on business impact.
“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” -Sun Tzu, The Art of War
What To Consider When Developing An IT Strategy
It is not uncommon for a company to never have had an IT strategy. Therefore, when developing an IT strategy, it is important to remember that technology exists to support the business — it is never just technology for the sake of technology. Developing a strategy is the best way to understand where the opportunities, risks and gaps exist today and create a plan that aligns IT with the business goals and needs. Consider the following when developing an IT strategy.
Know Your Business Goals Before Defining Your IT Strategy
Start with business goals. Where is your business today and where do you want to go? What are the trends impacting your business? A strong IT strategy is informed by clearly defined business goals or a strategic plan.
Understand the Trends Impacting Your Industry
Understanding the trends and drivers that will contribute to growth, competitive advantage, efficiency and customer experience is key to both your business strategy and IT strategy. Many industries have been disrupted over the past several years, and technology will continue to change the way we live and work. Is your business being disrupted, and if so, have you thought about how to take advantage of the disruption?
If an IT strategy is not flexible or does not allow for adaptation of new trends, your ability to pivot or embrace change will be more difficult.
There Is No Such Thing As An IT Project
All projects are required for a business reason. It may be the case that projects have a large IT component, but this does not mean they are “IT projects.” When projects are framed as business initiatives rather than IT projects, it presents an opportunity for better collaboration across departments and often improves the outcome of the work. Business initiatives support the company’s overall objectives and drive intentional business change. Business leaders must take an active role in IT, establishing a culture of collaboration between IT and the rest of the business.
Engage a Strategic, Unbiased Third Party
While it is possible to develop an IT strategy internally, there are key benefits from engaging an unbiased third party to lead this effort. Although internal teams may have knowledge of your IT portfolio, a third-party can see the high-level view as well as gaps that internal teams can overlook. An independent and strategic firm without ties to any specific hardware or software vendors brings a valuable, unbiased perspective to ensure that your IT strategy is based on a holistic view of your business and your industry while working with executive leaders and the in-house IT team. They can also help identify and set key performance indicators (KPIs) to track an organization’s progress toward its goals.
Focus On Execution
A strong IT strategy is key to an organization’s success and sustainability, but the strategy is only the beginning. In Daniel Prosser’s book, Thirteeners, he references a study that shows that 87 percent of companies fail to execute their strategy each year. This disconnect can have a profound effect on organizational success, resulting in missed expectations, lost opportunities, frustration, shadow IT, and other significant repercussions. A strong IT strategy requires strong IT leadership to work with business executives, IT staff and vendors to execute the strategic plan. It is important to assess the skills, expertise and bandwidth of your IT team to plan for execution. This is a critical time to ensure you have the right mix of resources, including staff, contractors, consultants and vendors.
Hartman Executive Advisors is a leader in helping organizations develop and execute effective IT strategies that align with their business goals. Contact Hartman Executive Advisors for more information about planning an IT strategy for 2021.