A strategic plan is an important asset for any organization. This useful tool identifies your long-term growth goals, defines the roadmap your team will use to achieve these goals, and helps guide any decisions that will need to be made along the way.
While the strategic plan outlines the mission, vision, and objectives for the entire company, it is also beneficial for IT teams to build their own strategic plans. Within an IT department, the IT strategic plan serves three important functions:
- Prioritizing the projects most worthy of your limited resources. Few companies have the resources and budget to achieve everything they want to do. Through the IT strategic planning process, your team will decide which projects are worth implementing or continuing now, which projects should be shelved until later, and which projects should be discontinued.
- Determining how you will measure your success. You can’t reach your destination unless you know where you’re trying to go. Part of building your IT strategic plan is identifying your success factors and how you will measure your progress.
- Aligning human resources within your organization. IT strategic plans ensure everyone on your IT team is marching in the same direction, and not working against each other.
Here are five important things to keep top of mind as your IT department begins its strategic planning process:
- Everything should support your mission and vision. A company’s mission statement affirms its goals and the values it embraces to achieve them. A vision statement describes the company’s higher aspirations – who the company wants to be in the future. Ideally, your company will have a mission and vision for the entire organization, and your IT team will have its own mission and vision that defines the role the department plays in supporting the larger goals. Make sure your team’s mission and vision are clearly defined before you begin your IT strategic planning process, as everything that goes into your plan should align with the big picture of what your department is trying to achieve, and what your company is trying to achieve.
- Feedback from your organization is critical. Before you can map a plan for your IT team, you should know how IT is perceived by the rest of your organization. Are your priorities in the IT department supporting the goals of everyone else in the company? It is vital to obtain continual feedback from your key stakeholders – your senior-level executives, management team, project managers, etc. – to make sure IT is operating effectively, or if changes need to be made. Surveys are typically the best way to collect input, as anonymity encourages honesty.
- Understand your entire landscape of current and future projects. Effective IT strategic plans include a comprehensive backlog or list of every project your team is currently working on, the projects you are still hoping to get to, and any project you know will be coming down the pike in the future. Once your list is complete, weigh each project against your mission and vision, and eliminate any that aren’t helping to reach your goals. Then, consider the resources and infrastructure currently available to your team – which projects can you realistically achieve now, and which will have to wait until next quarter or next year?
- How will you manage changes to the plan? As the saying goes, “The only constant in life is change,” and the same is true for technology. And that means change needs to be addressed in your IT strategic plan. If an unexpected project comes along, or a requirement of one of your current projects changes, how will it impact the rest of your workload or the work you’ve already completed? And as you embark on changes within your department or company, how will you make sure your personnel is prepared to embrace that change? The change management aspect of your IT plan should address both how you will maintain changes to your project list, and how you will implement changes (i.e. new implementations, services, upgrades, etc.) within your organization.
- Budget matters, but it’s not the starting point. Naturally, budget is an important factor in your IT strategic plan, as you can’t complete a project unless you have the money you need to cover it. It’s essential to know where the money is coming from, how it is being allocated, and who to ask for more of it when necessary. However, your budget shouldn’t be driving your IT decisions. If a project truly aligns with the mission and values of your IT team and the organization but isn’t covered by your budget, rather than nixing it, it’s time to have a hard conversation with your executive team to explain why this initiative is worthy of additional resources for the long-term success of the company.
Finally, once your IT strategic plan is in place, it is imperative to gain consensus from your full team to ensure everyone is informed and in agreement with your goals and how you plan to achieve them. With your team on board, it is then time to communicate your plan to your key stakeholders. Set a schedule for reporting your results and analyzing your progress. You should also expect to revisit your IT strategic plan on a regular basis to address necessary changes.
Debbie Chin is a program manager with ROC Implementation & Management Group (ROCIMG), Inc., a business strategy, cybersecurity, and information technology (IT) consulting company committed to helping its clients and its people achieve new levels of performance excellence.