IT Strategy Quick Start Guide

How SMBs Can Begin to Intentionally Align IT to Enable Business Goals

If you are interested in creating an IT strategy, chances are there has been some kind of change in your organization. You might have a period of major growth underway or expect it to soon happen. Perhaps you're new to your role and want to get things started off on the right foot. Maybe there has been a change in industry regulations. Whatever the reason, here you are contemplating how you might create an information technology strategy.

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If you are asking what is IT strategy, you might not realize is that you already have one. It could be a document that you look at regularly. Maybe it's a plan that you haven't looked at since you created it five years ago. Perhaps the plan is more verbal and sounds something like "this is the way it's always been done around here." For whatever reason, something is happening in your organization that is breaking the mold and has stimulated your exploration of an IT strategy. Before diving into the guide, let's start with a quick overview to provide context for your efforts.

 

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What is Information Technology Strategy?

Information technology strategy is a way of guiding your company's IT activities and investments so that they support your business objectives. A successfully executed information technology strategy pushes IT out of your overhead and turns it into a key contributor to how you grow your business and provide value to your customers, employees and stakeholders.

Why Implement IT Strategy?

The pervasive attitude about IT in many companies is that IT is not on the same level as Operations, Sales and Marketing, HR or Finance. When you implement IT strategy, IT becomes viewed as a business function, and can help all departments work towards objectives. The objectives guide IT activity and investment so that the ROI from technology can be recognized and quantified. Because it is so focused on what the business wants to achieve, technology can actually become a competitive advantage. Because the process of creating and implementing IT strategy touches all business units, it can actually stimulate collaboration and consolidation throughout the organization.

Information Technology Strategy

When Do You Need IT Strategy?

As a business owner or corporate executive, you are already aware of the need to create and implement strategy to achieve your business goals. If you recognize the importance of technology for your day-to-day business operations, and you know how quickly technology changes -- you are ready for IT strategy. If you find that IT is stalling your business growth, or if you are asking how IT can add to the bottom line for your company -- you are ready for IT strategy. If you are looking for a better way to make IT decisions or you want to ensure you are making the right long term IT investments for your business -- you are ready for IT strategy.

Why Not Start Today?

You might not think you need it or you might think your company is doing it already, but optimizing and automating your current processes is not strategy, nor is asking for technology answers to your business problems. You might think that you don't have the time, the resouces or the expertise to bring a new initiative like IT strategy into your company. Creation and executive of effective IT strategy requires a leader who is well versed in business management and planning, in addition to being savvy about technology use and trends.

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How to Get Started

1. Gather Your Team

Don't try to go it alone, you'll end up with only a fraction of a plan. IT touches every department in your company so include department heads to make sure the whole company is represented. Having everyone involved will stimulate collaboration as well as discovery of ways to enable business processes with Technology.

2. Review Your 10, 3 and One Year Business Plan

The cornerstone of a good IT plan is a good business plan, and in order for IT to be effective it needs to be aligned with the needs of your business not only today, but tomorrow as well. As IT learns about the business objectives of each department it will be able to identify themes that will ultimately contribute to the IT strategic plan.

Review your business plan

3. Identify the Impetus for Creating a Strategy or Change in Strategy

You must have an end in mind that is different from your current reality otherwise you would be satisfied with the status quoe. Why won't the status quo get you to where you want to go with the business?

4. Envision the Results of a Successful Strategy

This should describe that future state you want to attain, along with its business benefits. IT strategy becomes especially powerful when it enables each department to meet their unique and combined goals, and includes a time frame for implementation.

5. Utilize a "Start, Stop, Keep" Methodology

Have your team answer these questions:

What are you not doing today with IT that you need to start in order to scale with your business plan?

What are you doing today with IT that you need to stop because it is of no benefit to reaching your plan?

What is working well today in IT that you should keep doing, and possibly expand on?

What are the assumptions you are operating on today in regard to what IT can or can't do? What if those could be changed into drastically different outcomes? Clear away these stereotypes and preconceived notions to expose unforeseen opportunities.

Utilize a Start, stop keep methodology

6. Visualize the Impact on Customers, Employees and Shareholders

Revisiting your thoughts for the items identified in 4 and 5 from the perspective of customers, employees, and shareholders, is a sound way to ensure that you have the right strategy. It is easy to get trapped into considering only the employees when you are thinking about technology so you might need to intentionally stretch your thinking about IT strategy to include how you can positively impact customers and shareholders as well.

7. Ask Yourself "Why" Five Times

In the items identified in 4 - 6, your initial answer might not go deep enough. Just because you can apply a technology tool doesn't mean that you should. The issue that you are looking at could be better solved on a business level with a different business strategy. Drilling down will help you to truly understand if the solution should be in the technology strategy.

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Five Whys Example

Issue: We have to enter the same information twice.

  • Why? Because our line of business software and invoicing software don't talk to each other.
  • Why? Because our data base software is out of date.
  • Why? Because our server doesn't have the capacity for the upgrade.
  • Why? Because we aren't confident in any of the solutions that we have looked at so far.
  • Why? Because our IT provider doesn't have a good track record of helping us make the right IT investments.

Conclusion

The benefits of implementing IT strategy reach beyond the IT department and can have profound impact on how technology helps your company achieve its goals and deliver value. Some managed IT service providers can facilitate the IT strategy process if they can provide IT leadership and guidance in conjunction with services.

IT Strategy and Services from One Company

Thriveon provides ongoing IT consulting to clients along with a whole IT department for a fixed monthly fee to enable business goals with technology. A vCIO works with each business to create a customized IT strategy that projects needs and budgets into the future. Monthly check-ins assure that the IT strategy stays relevant to changes if the business landscape changes. The result is that IT becomes a business function that helps you meet your goals, and you can focus on your business. Contact us to explore what this might look like for your company.

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