As a business owner, while navigating through the world of Information Technology(I.T), the concept of an IT Strategy may seem strange to you. More often than not, business owners leave their IT solutions at a “break-fix” IT approach.
When something is broken you go to fix it, or since you are missing a piece of equipment or device to do a particular task, you go out and purchase it. Without considering some very key factors, like the maintenance cost of the equipment? Is it newly manufactured or is the product end of life? What kind of license would best suit my business needs?
All these answers and more are answered in an IT Strategic Plan. In this article, we will look at why this plan is an essential piece of your business planning, then we will explain each aspect of this plan so you can perform one within your company or be able to ask a service provider proper questions when they are presenting one to your business.
Why do you need an IT Strategy?
According to SearchCIO, an IT strategy is a “document that details the comprehensive technology-enabled business management processes an organization uses to guide operations.” In short, it serves as a guide to IT-related decision-making. An IT strategy is sometimes referred to as a technology strategy or an IT Strategic plan. It gives an idea of where IT should be over the next 3 to 5 years.
Typically, your IT strategic plan should cover the budget, your IT Projects, existing infrastructure, IT S.W.O.T Analysis, and human resource management. This list will be further explained shortly.
Organizations in this decade realize that digital transformation is happening all around them and to be competitive in their respective market they must utilize IT to the fullest. Digital transformation is the incorporation of computer-based technologies into an organization's products, processes, and strategies.
Digitization has been affecting society for the past 2 decades and it is only getting more and more important, hence to be better able to reach more customers and see growth in your business you need to plan out the IT-related aspect of your business to make sure it is in line with your companies plans to grow.
What are the elements of an IT strategy?
Now that we have discussed why you need an It strategy let’s now look at the various elements of an IT strategy. Some elements may differ from one organization to another, but the following is the basic outline that your IT Strategy should have.
- High-Level Overview - The first aspect of your IT strategic plan that you must document is that of a High-Level Overview. The high-level overview pertains to your IT department, it will cover points like your mission, vision, core values, objectives, and approaches used to achieve its goal.
The overview will be your foundation for building on the other aspects of this plan. You must always ask yourself. Is implementing this piece of technology making me reach my mission, is it in line with the approaches I have established previously, or will it better those approaches?
- Budget - In your IT strategy you must look at your current budget. Identifying the number of financial resources you will be putting into your IT needs. As a business owner, you may decide that your current budget is a starting point and you plan to increase it every 6 months. Or that this equipment will cost a certain amount to upkeep so there is a need for a spending forecast for a few years.
Ultimately apart from your high-level overview, which will guide your decision-making, your budget is the next important aspect. Since based on your budget you will be able to formulate your plans for the next elements.
- IT Projects - Now that you have your overview and budget you must document the IT projects that you have lined up. It could be a full-blown project that you have in the making or some initiative like going onto a new social media platform for instance. Whatever it may be you must document it with timelines and milestones.
When documenting your IT projects make sure they are S.M.A.R.T (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely). Each project should be in line with your overview. Giving you a practical step to achieving them.
- Existing Infrastructure - Your existing IT infrastructure must be documented. Good documentation would consist of your equipment, the licenses, the warranty on that equipment., the number of equipment the various subscriptions and the like. The purpose of this is to catalog the infrastructure capacity and capabilities.
With this information, you can better decide to what extent you can implement your IT projects and what upgrades are necessary.
- SWOT Analysis - The SWOT analysis looks at the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats that may affect your IT strategy, while also looking at the internal and external factors that affect your ITs ability to meet its goals. The strengths may be things that your company does exceedingly well or things you don’t see yourself having any problems with. The weaknesses are factors that your company may not be doing so well at and may need some help or assistance to accomplish.
Such analysis will help you identify gaps in your IT systems. So that you can now take measures to fill those gaps and help allow you to meet your objectives.
- Human Resource Management - The Human resource aspect of your strategic plan is also very important. This element looks at the skills sets of your staff, this can be done by itemizing the necessary skills needed to get you to your objective and then listing which staff meets those skills sets.
With that information, you can decide if your IT projects would also require the training of staff members or outsourcing experts to perform those changes.
The above elements are essential for your IT strategic plan. It is important that the plan is clear and easy to understand so that key stakeholders can take part in making that plan possible.
Your IT strategy is an essential part of your business success by understanding what an IT strategy is and knowing the elements required to create one then you are well on your way to digital transformation and certain growth of your organization.