The importance of having an ICT strategy
A well-thought-out ICT strategy is arguably one of the most important documents your organisation will produce – not to mention one of the hardest to get right.
A good ICT strategy, which considers your organisation’s broader vision and objectives as well as your ICT goals, will enable your business to move forward with a clear technology roadmap.
A poorly considered ICT strategy, on the other hand, can result in poor decision-making regarding ICT investment, which in turn, can lead to underperformance and decreased efficiency and productivity.
ICT plays an integral role in the way organisations of all sizes operate.
As such, it’s becoming increasingly important for businesses to develop and implement scalable ICT strategies which support their overall objectives, rather than just the goals of their ICT departments. Failure to execute the right ICT strategy can lead to wasted money and resources, not to mention the impact on staff time as they battle with outdated systems that weren’t designed to cope with the organisation’s size, activities or workflow.
However, developing the right ICT strategy in-house presents challenges for many organisations.
Some in-house ICT departments lack the skills, experience and knowledge to develop an ICT strategy that’s fit for purpose. While they may be full of highly competent staff, their priorities tend to lie in the day-to-day management of systems, networks and users.
Another challenge in-house ICT teams face is gaining enough distance from the day-to-date management of ICT in order to get a proper perspective on what needs to change.
Instead, they are focused only on what might make their lives easier, rather than how ICT can be deployed to drive the organisation forward.
Meanwhile, some organisations grow beyond their current ICT capability and require help in developing a strategy that will quickly meet their needs.
Every organisation is different and has its unique strengths and weaknesses, challenges and opportunities.
When it comes to ICT strategy, there is no one-size-fits-all solution that guarantees success.
Whatever stage of the cycle your organisation finds itself in, an external ICT consultant can provide technical leadership to help your in-house team develop and deliver a fully aligned ICT strategy for your organisation.
What is an ICT strategy?
An ICT Strategy is a document which outlines how your organisation’s ICT will support your overall corporate objectives and strategy over a defined period, such as 12 months, three years, five years or even longer.
It should be a living, breathing document that is reviewed regularly and tweaked when required to reflect emerging trends and new technologies coming onto the market, which your organisation might benefit from investing in.
Your ICT strategy might form part of your overall business strategy, but it can also be a separate document that sets out the goals your organisation is looking to achieve, and how technology will help it achieve those goals.
To unlock the most significant benefits from your ICT strategy, all your departments should be involved in its creation, rather than just your ICT team.
To be successful, there should be no disconnect between your ICT strategy and your organisation’s corporate objectives.
How to develop an ICT strategy
There are many different ways to create and present an ICT strategy to tailor your document to your organisation’s preferences.
However, when it comes to developing your strategy, there are a few things you need to consider.
– Assign responsibilities
A vital starting point for any ICT strategy is to identify individual responsibilities, both internally and externally. Relationships between organisations, their internal departments and their ICT service providers can fall down if there is confusion over who has responsibility for what.
Some organisations are comfortable outsourcing the control and management of their ICT strategy to an external provider, while others prefer to keep ownership in-house.
Whichever model you go for, clearly defining each stakeholder’s responsibilities so there are no blurred lines is vital.
Having someone who takes ultimate responsibility for ICT is also essential, to help eliminate the duplication of software solutions and unnecessary spend.
– Establish a baseline
After assigning responsibilities for – and ownership of – your ICT strategy, the next stage is to carry out an audit of your current provision to establish what you’re already using and where this can be streamlined or made more efficient.
This will help you shake out the applications or software that do a similar job and identify any over- or under-utilisation. Straight away, this may enable you to eliminate any unnecessary costs and identify areas which need investment.
An audit should also help you identify any areas within your current ICT environment that cause concern.
Potential issues include older technology that needs updating, storage issues, non-compliant applications, or systems that can’t cope with the number of users or data they process.
You should also use this opportunity to take stock of your existing hardware – is it fit for purpose, does it need replacing or upgrading and if so, how will you budget for it?
– Create a budget
One of the main benefits of having an effective ICT strategy is the control it gives you over your costs.
A planned approach to hardware and software is cost-effective over the long term and allows for more effective budgeting.
Some items are best managed on a rolling cycle.
For example, if your organisation has 1,000 laptops that need replacing every three years, buying them all in year one and replacing them all in year four might not be the best approach.
Instead, replacing several hundred each year, on a rolling basis, turns laptop replacement from being a major headache every three years to being a business-as-usual process.
This cannot be achieved without a proper ICT Strategy and associated plan.
If you are moving – or have moved – to a cloud-based model, most software applications can be procured on a subscription basis, where you pay for only what you use and can quickly scale up or down, depending on your current requirements.
This reduces the need for large initial outlays on software purchase and licensing.
However, when it comes to reducing your organisation’s ICT costs, your focus should always be on the end goal, rather than the initial cost-saving.
Digital transformation shouldn’t just be about making your ICT function better. It should be on making your ICT serve your organisation better.
While achieving a £300,000 cost reduction in ICT spend is great, it may make more sense to invest an additional £300,000 in technology that could save your organisation £2m in the long run.
– Stay ahead of the curve
Technology evolves quickly, with innovations and solutions being introduced into the marketplace all the time.
So, it pays to ensure you know what trends are emerging and what technology is coming down the track that might offer your organisation a better way of doing things.
By planning ahead as part of your ICT strategy development, you’ll be forced to look at future technological developments and the impact they may have on your organisation.
Adopting them early might not only help provide further efficiencies or streamline your organisation, it may also give you a competitive edge.
As we said right at the start of this article, creating a living, breathing document that is reviewed regularly to reflect changes in the technology landscape will help ensure you don’t miss any opportunities to make improvements.
How to align your ICT strategy to your overall objectives
When aligning your ICT strategy with your organisation’s objectives, it’s essential to take a holistic view of your organisation’s current ICT delivery, and what needs to change to serve your organisation better.
This will help you gain your senior leadership team’s buy-in, and your team’s support, who should hopefully start to experience the benefits that having an aligned ICT strategy can bring.
This cross-departmental buy-in, from your leadership team in particular, is crucial.
Every key stakeholder within your organisation needs to understand the role technology plays and how ICT investment can bring about improvement.
They also need to understand the potential consequences of not investing in the right technologies and solutions.
A major challenge for large-scale public sector and commercial organisations is that return on investment for ICT spend that results in savings in different departments is not properly accounted for.
Internal politics can come into play within larger organisations, especially when departments are all vying for money and the individual departments want to own the cost savings irrespective of how they were achieved or where the investment came from.
It’s important that this is recognised by the organisation from the outset and that a mechanism is built into the organisations governance that honours this and appropriately credits ICT for the contribution it makes.
As such, it’s essential to define how your ICT can serve your organisation in the best way.
Every aspect of your delivery should be documented, which will help ensure that each ICT-related investment or project you undertake delivers value.
To help achieve the best outcomes, your delivery should be measured against business-related KPIs, rather than ICT-related ones.
Crucially, there needs to be a level of accountability at all levels.
While your ICT department should take responsibility for ensuring that delivery meets your corporate objectives, your leadership team should be accountable for ICT, to ensure it gets the support and investment it needs.
As your ICT partner, we’ll help you get more from your technology to boost your organisation’s efficiency and performance. To find out how we can help, give us a call on 01332 322588.