This is a common comment / question asked by both company CEOs and heads of IT, as they seek to ensure that enhanced services are provided by their IT teams. It’s an understandable question from both a business and a technology perspective as:
- Businesses look to their IT teams to ensure that business transactions are processed promptly and that the management team has access to quality information to base effective decisions on to help chart a way through challenging times
- Heads of IT look to enhance the customer delivery capability of their organisation, to demonstrate that they are more than a cost line in providing practical solutions.
IT organisations have a wide variety of topics to consider;
- The benefits and challenges of using cloud computing along with or in place of other delivery options such as hosted or on-premise solutions
- The potential of open source solutions to deliver enterprise ready solutions
- The impact of different regulatory systems on the management of IT systems
- The ongoing focus on cost benefit analysis to get the appropriate balance between investing for the future business needs and covering day-to-day expenditure
- The importance of being increasingly agile to manage changing business requirements
- Enhancing security standards to reduce the risk of a hacking incident
An adaptable road-map
A strategy can and does help. Think of it like a road-map, but one that can and should be reviewed periodically with the IT organisation’s ‘internal’ customers. A strategy is not a one-off exercise where IT and Business Management teams think that they are locked into. Changes will be required, so it’s important to consider this strategy as a working document.
Demand vs. Supply
As with any customer-focused organisation and it’s no different for an IT organisation, the first step in a strategy starts with identifying the ‘customer demand’ – what are the business solutions that the organisation management needs now and in the future. In parallel with this discussion, IT organisations can be proactive in proposing new opportunities and ways for doing business. These initial steps will generate the first part of the strategy – an Information Systems (IS) strategy listing the business goals and their requirements of what they as a business would like to see delivered from the IT organisation.
One important characteristic of an IS strategy is that it specifies what is required in adequate detail – in simple terms this is a list of prioritised user requirements – the ‘What’.
For every customer demand, there needs to be a supply – the ‘How’. The ‘How’ is an Information Technology (IT) strategy – spelling out in appropriate technical detail, how each of the user requirements in the IS strategy will be delivered. The IT strategy spells out the combination of network, server, database, operating system(s), transaction systems and how they will be delivered to provide the appropriate means to each business user to achieve their requirements in the IS strategy.
Collaboration is key
One of the characteristics of this process that helps in it’s success is that the IS startegy is a top-down approach identifying the key business requirements from the senior
management team, while the IT strategy is a bottom-up strategy with all of the IT organisation working on the appropriate IT tools to support these requirements.
To finish with an important point, made at the start of this post, it is important that this is an ongoing process supported by a collaborative relationship between a technical savvy business management team and a business savvy IT team.