Setting effective IT strategy
The IT strategy module of the Excellent IT Management course has been continually improving over the last ten years. We provide an overview of how organizations develop top level strategy, but focus on IT, how to develop robust and optimized strategy and align it to the top level priorities.
Managers often lose sight of the real point of strategy, which is to help achieve higher goals, more profit, and so on. What strategy does, therefore, is allow everyone to understand what the overall goals are, how they are to be achieved, and hence, more specifically, what their roles are in achieving them.
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The module on IT strategy covers the following topics:
- What is strategy?
- Solving the problems of business strategy
- Leading approaches to creating top level strategy
- Case study ‘Setting corporate direction’
- A proven process for IT strategy
- Aligning IT strategy to business priorities
- Balanced scorecard IT objectives
- Enterprise architecture in IT strategy
- Looking for a better way — optimizing IT strategy
- Strategic plans — plot on a page
- Communicating strategy
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The word strategy can be very confusing. Different people use it to mean slightly different things. It is sometimes used to mean a major activity, as in “one of our strategies is to implement SharePoint.” Sometimes it is used to express a future outcome, such as “our strategy is to increase our international market share.” We even hear some managers use it to mean “very important,” as in “I am working on a strategic project for the board.” Each of these uses is slightly erroneous. Strategy is not an activity or an outcome but in fact a combination of both. The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines strategy as follows:
Strategy (n): a careful plan or method for achieving a particular goal usually over a long period of time
Since there are usually many routes to achieve any end goal, it is important that everyone knows which path has been chosen and can focus on the right activities.
On the course we talk about the sorts of things that can go wrong with strategy. The list usually goes to more than two pages of flip chart – too long, too vague, not flexible, not communicated and so on. Which just goes to remind us that a good process based on a proven method is very important. Some years ago, we put together such a process. It is robust, streamlined and has stood the test of time. Organizations that follow it should be able to complete their own IT strategy in less than two months from flash to bang.
One of the key considerations we discuss, is how to create an IT strategy that properly aligns to the business strategy. This would be difficult enough if there was a coherent top level strategy. Our research suggests that less than 20% of organizations have a top level strategy that provides the right information for the organization to design their departmental plans. So, we also talk about how to create strategy in the absence of top level strategy – how to work with the stakeholders to understand their priorities.
If you are interested in this topic, why not request a complementary download of the chapter on “IT Strategy” from “Excellent IT Management” by David McKean, published by Amazon’s Createspace, 2014 – the one on which the course is based.
If you are interested in some further information, here are some of our favourite references. Always keen to learn more, let us know if you have any papers or books on these subjects you could recommend.
Top level strategy, Tregoe & Zimmerman
A great book looking at driving force in organizations and creating competitive advantage
The Art of Japanese Management, Tanner Pascale & Athos
Explanation of the 7-S model which is used by McKinsey in their strategy consulting, and looks at how Japanese companies assign considerable importance to both hard and soft aspects of management.
‘6 IT decisions your IT people shouldn’t make’ by Ross & Weill,
This Harvard Business Review article, entitled ‘6 IT Decisions your IT people shouldn’t make’ is an interesting review of the importance of IT to the business as a whole and the need for good governance.
‘From Good to Great, Jim Collins’
This is a fantastic book and although not specifically relevant to just IT, it does highlight how all of the top performing companies see Information Technology as key to their success. A highly recommended book that identifies the common themes that make the best companies in the world what they are.