Avoid getting caught in an endless cycle of IT firefights – and save your company time and money by implementing a strategic IT planning process that focuses on making sure your IT infrastructure can keep up with the demands of your business while continually improving the day-to-day productivity of your workforce.
The Importance of Long-Term Planning
Strategic planning for IT is critical in order for any organization to reach its long-term business goals. Broadly, the process involves setting key IT priorities on a regular basis that are aligned with business goals and making sure that all parts of the organization are on the same page regarding inter-dependent priorities.
Reactionary planning – otherwise known as no planning – is generally crisis driven – and expensive. When something breaks, fix it. When servers can’t handle the load, buy another. When a new user starts, buy a laptop. This behavior is not uncommon – especially when IT departments are understaffed and overloaded. But it is inefficient, and can cost a company a lot extra in the long run.
By definition, forward looking businesses plan for the future. They have processes in place to make sure that IT priorities and budgets are aligned with business plans, and that their IT support team is capable of planning, deploying and maintaining a healthy information infrastructure that will support their business objectives and their end-user community.
As described above, IT strategic planning is a decision-making process that can help ensure that your IT priorities are aligned with your company’s long-term business objectives.
While the primary aim of a strategic plan is to align your department’s activities with your company’s longer-term goals, it can also be used as a framework to define the tactical milestones needed to achieve those goals while, at the same time, improving the everyday productivity of your department and your end-users.
The strategic goals, along with a prioritized list of high-level, tactical milestones needed to achieve those goals can be used to create what is commonly known as an IT Roadmap. In this model, the strategic goals represent your ultimate destination while the prioritized milestones describe the significant waypoints and general direction of the journey.
Who Owns the Roadmap?
IT Roadmaps are typically created by high-level IT decision-makers such as your CIO or IT Director in consultation with the business leaders and the senior IT engineering staff. Whatever the case, it is vital that the person responsible for preparing the plan knows and understands the company’s business’s objectives and budgetary requirements, as well as its IT assets and capabilities.
Your plan can be in-depth or in broad strokes, depending on your company’s objectives, but it (and you) always need to be flexible. Long-term strategic objectives may change quickly depending on business conditions. And, of course, technology is always changing so that today’s brilliant plan could be obsoleted overnight!
Adaptability is pivotal for any good strategic initiative. Even strategies designed around industry best practices will change due to cost projections, new market data, unexpected setbacks, and new technology released into the market.
For the most effective plans, expect to look 12-24 months into the future instead of any longer time frames that your primary business objective may use. This gives you the best chance to change plans as needed without recreating the entire program from scratch.
Additional Considerations in Strategic IT Planning
In addition to aligning IT plans with business objectives, it is important to include critical IT objectives in your strategic plan. These are objectives that your team has identified internally as being critical to maintaining the availability and security of your IT systems, regardless of other business objectives. To extend our roadmap metaphor, these can be seen as small but necessary detours on our journey. Considerations might include:
- Improving cybersecurity defenses to address emerging threats
- Remediating security weakness identified by vulnerability assessments
- Phasing out / replacing of end-of-life technology
- Other overdue technology refreshes
- New tools or applications or automation platforms recommended to improve system performance, functionality, efficiency or stability
- Infrastructure scaling that may be required to support growing business needs
- Identifying and filling critical gaps between current process and industry best practices and/or remediating serious technical debt
In conjunction with an overall strategic plan, you’ll want tactical short-term goals with easy to reach milestones that make incremental improvements to your day-to-day operations.
And, of course, you’ll want to make regular assessments of progress-to-goal to make sure you have not veered too far from your intended direction and/or to make course-corrections as dictated by changing business conditions.
Strategic Planning is a Team Sport
Without a clear plan and disciplined approach to implementation, it’s all too easy to get diverted from your objectives and get stuck in the weeds. Meanwhile, technical debt and risk continue to grow and threaten your business plans. And you find yourself back in firefighting mode. Here are some simple rules to help you avoid that fate and to guide you on your journey:
- Stay plugged into the big picture. Don’t get lost in the weeds.
- Get buy-in to your plans and priorities from major stakeholders in the company.
- Set realistic, incremental and practical goals.
- Perform regular reviews of key performance metrics with the entire team to track progress towards those goals and identify upcoming roadblocks as soon as possible.
- Communicate your status clearly and concisely to upper management, including any items that are slowing or blocking your progress.
Partner with ITSco to Create Strategic IT Plans that Support Your Business Goals
Analyzing your entire IT infrastructure, assessing weaknesses and vulnerabilities, and creating a detailed roadmap that helps you achieve both tactical and strategic goals requires expertise gained through years of experience across multiple disciplines.
But, you don’t have to go through the process alone. Our battle-tested, executive-level and senior engineering specialists will take the time to understand your business, your unique needs, and your long-term goals to help create and implement a detailed strategic IT plan that will show the way forward.
Find out how ITSco can assist you in your IT strategy planning.