ICT Strategy Development – A journey into the future

Why do you exist?

The first question to ask when trying to formulate an ICT strategy is “Why do you exist?” and this question can and should be taken in two  different ways:

  1. Why does my organisation exist?

What is “core business” for your organisation and what are the business goals in the short, medium and long term? Any ICT Strategy should serve these goals – it should be orchestrated to assist in delivering them.

  1. Why does my department exist?

Is ICT a whole department or part of a wider department? Why does that department exist – what is it required to deliver to the rest of the organisation? If you look beyond the specifically articulated deliverables what else should my department be delivering?

Once you understand why you exist defining an ICT Strategy can be viewed as a journey – with a starting place, a destination and a clear route between these two places. In the rest of this blog post we will consider this journey in more detail.

 

Where are you?

The second question to address is “Where are you at the moment as an organisation?”, on your journey where is it that you are starting from?  Do you know what your ICT function does well and what it does poorly? Do you understand what other parts of the business think of the ICT function? Do you understand your current costs? Do you know which parts of the infrastructure are in need of replacing? Do you know the skill sets of your staff? Do you know which applications are the most costly to run? Do you know which applications have the poorest performance?

The answers to these questions will help you target your strategy correctly and make any necessary improvements.

Where do you need to be?

On any journey you need to know the destination – you can’t get where you are going unless you know the destination as this defines the route you must take to get there. I’d suggest that an organisation needs to work out what its ideal ICT function would deliver as this is the destination.

This could be defined in a number of different ways:

1) How is what you want different from what you currently have? I’m not keen on this approach – it focuses too much on what’s wrong with the current ICT delivery rather than the art of the possible.

2) What improvements would be most beneficial to your ICT delivery? I’m not keen on this question as it uses the present state to constrain the future state. It will not inspire any radical changes.

3) If you had no ICT and were starting from nothing what would you want? I think this question is a good starting point as it bypasses preconceptions.

Using this third question allows you to be free to think more openly about how things ought to work rather than how things do work… it allows you to be transformational rather than iterative.

What places do you need to visit en route?

Sometimes on a journey it’s impossible to get somewhere without stopping off along the way.

When we went as a family to the Isle of Wight, we didn’t drive all the way from Derby, then catch the ferry to the Isle of Wight, and pitch our tent at the campsite all in one day. Instead we staged our journey to make it more manageable.

I believe the same is true when it comes to planning the implementation of an ICT Strategy. You need to identify your starting point, and the destination, and the “stopping points” on the way.

Your stopping points might be around budget, staffing, connectivity, licensing, technology deficit, end of life hardware, etc.

Do you have excess baggage?

We all know that embarking on a journey with excess baggage is difficult & costly.

Are there items in your organisation that simply won’t manage the journey? You need quite quickly to work out what these are and how you will handle them. This could be applications that cost too much to be changed but that the organisation is wedded to, or people who are critical to the organisation but don’t handle change well, or contract end dates for existing solutions that don’t align.

Planning the route

When I am travelling to somewhere new I usually go to Google Maps to take a look at the route before I set off. Guessing the route isn’t normally very successful in my experience. The same is true when developing an ICT strategy.

Once you know your starting point, the destination, and the places you need to stop at on the way, you will need to determine the order in which you must visit those places. I would suggest that in most instances this order should be fairly obvious or at least easily explained. Let me give a few examples from my recent experience:

  • When planning to migrate a service to cloud you ought to at least have a go at working out how doing so will affect your costs

  • When changing from one vendors product to another vendors product you should include a plan to ensure staff get adequate training.

  • If you are going to make increased use of internet-based services, you ought first to consider how much bandwidth you will need

These might seem obvious, but they still need to be added to any plan in the correct sequence.

 But these are merely examples – the actual places you need to visit as part of the route (en route) to implementing your strategy will rather depend on your strategy, your organisation, your budget and your staff.

The cost of the journey

Anyone who has watched “Race across the World” recently will realise that the cost of the journey is critically important. If you don’t have enough money for the journey, then you won’t reach your destination.

You will need to work out what each step on the journey will cost to implement. Not merely the technology cost but the training costs, support costs and project management costs for implementation. To get a full picture you will also need to consider your current costs and your future costs post implementation.

letting people know

Anyone who has travelled on their own on a long journey knows that for safety reasons it’s important to tell someone else about their journey – in case they go missing on the way. Showing someone else the route you plan on taking allows them to suggest shortcuts or tell you to avoid a particularly notorious road. The same is true for your ICT strategy and route plan.

Once you have your destination, route and know the cost of the journey you are ready to put all this together and publish the strategy. You should be prepared to not merely publish a strategy document and plan, but also to present and defend the strategy.

People will want to challenge the strategy – some just because they don’t like change, but others will have legitimate well-reasoned objections – you should pay attention to these.

Where possible the strategy and plan should be modified to take into account any sensible objections.

We can help

There is a reason why when I plan to go somewhere new I use Google Maps – it’s because I know it will help me to take the right route and will give me the necessary information to make the journey safely. Maybe you use Waze not Google Maps, but in any event I’m sure you use some form of map to help you reach your destination.

We have worked with a number of our customers to develop their ICT strategy “journey” based on their business objectives and where they want to go as a business. We want to work with our customers in partnership on this – there is no point even attempting to develop someone’s strategy in their absence – we want to sit down with you, talk through what you want to achieve, look with you at where you currently are, work out the steps on your journey and then travel with you on that journey. We want to be open with you about where the journey will be hard, struggle with you up the hills, and rejoice with you as you reach each milestone until your journey is finally completed.

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