How Do You Present a Good IT Strategy? On One Page
I recently visited a large multinational to run an IT strategy development workshop. The company is a major global player in its industry and its technology landscape and IT services are no doubt similar to the competition, but outdated and no longer supporting the aspirations of senior management to grow and modernize the business.
While the IT organization and a key business partner are working on how ‘digital’ might disrupt their industry and how to respond to that, there are plenty of other obvious ‘traditional’ IT changes required. The architecture team had done a great job interviewing the business leaders and creating a five-year IT programme to replace almost all the legacy infrastructure and application estate. However, while the documents produced made sense as a technology architecture and project plan, they were unlikely to:
- Be read and understood by business partners outside of IT.
- Memorably connect the business strategy with the IT strategy.
- Position information and technology as a business improvement lever.
- Position the IT organization as a peer to other functions.
We agreed they needed a simple one-page IT strategy that could be used to better communicate how IT was going to create value. Some of the principles we used to develop the document in the workshop included:
- A very short and therefore memorable mission, USP or tagline – for example, ‘Information Powered Manufacturing’.
- Makes choices that maximize value creation (positive cash flow) for the chosen period and allocated funding.
- Has two kinds of IT strategy that articulate those choices – (1) where to play (2) how to win, both with clear and memorable linkages to the business strategy, initiatives and change plans.
- Speaks about the business as much as possible and about technology as little as possible.
- Is externally focused (that is, outside the enterprise as well as the IT organization) or ‘outside-in’.
- Focuses technology-driven business improvement on the key business activities or processes needed to achieve the business strategy.
- Makes use of business metrics as well as IT ones.
- Is consistent with the (target) operating model and culture for the enterprise.
- Positions IT to as the technology leaders for the enterprise and as an equal business partner.
- Puts technology in the front office.
- Is clear what IT processes are core (for example, business analysis, relationship management, service integration, contract management, programme management) and what are not.
- Differentiates between technology that (a) changes the business (model, product or service), (b) drives business improvement, and (c) does not differentiate the enterprise vs the competition.
- Outsources commodity IT so that the retained organization can focus on (a) and (b).
- Reduces technology complexity where it adds no value.
The CIO has one of the most difficult senior leadership roles in the modern enterprise. The challenge is not just to create value by doing the right things, in the right way, in the fast-moving world of IT – but also to keep all the stakeholders on board through changes that are way outside their experience.
When you are in this situation, it is often useful to secure an outside opinion about a new or particularly difficult challenge, or a fresh and focused analysis of an existing, intractable problem. LEF’s CIO Sounding Board can help with short, customized, added-value engagements to frame issues and suggest ‘self-help’ solutions. The service offers peer-level problem-solving input and strategic advice, delivered in a two-week timeframe, so you can move fast to make the changes required. They specialize in issues such as IT and digital strategy development, creation or review of a Business Relationship Management (BRM) function, sourcing strategy review, organization design and the creation or review of a shared services capability.
Mike Bowden is a CIO Advisor for the Leading Edge Forum and a core member of the LEF Business Relationship Management (BRM) instructor team, helping clients drive greater business value through powerful business relationship management. He is also a global IT leader and CIO Sounding Board Advisor providing transformational consulting and advisory services to global companies.
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