12 Steps to an Effective IT Strategy – Understand Where You Are

photo credit: alisdair via photopin cc

photo credit: alisdair via photopin cc

This blog post underlines in importance of what I see as the first of three stages in completing an effective IT strategy – understanding where you are. Keep checking back for the second and third steps in the process.

Some consultants will call this “as now” or “current state” analysis. Whatever you call it, the critical point is that you must understand where you are and what you have before you can write any strategy to change it. Firms have all sorts of inventories but rarely have a good understanding of the systems and services they have, and more importantly how effective they are in terms of meeting business goals.

Step 1 – Understand your current complexity and alignment

This could be seen as understanding your IT systems and services inventory, but I believe it is more than just obtaining lists. It is about understanding how things are used and where they are used.  It is all too easy to take the asset lists, licence lists and other inventories that exist with an organisation. However, to really understand how the systems and services are used it is vital to document which areas of the business consume which services, which business products make use of which systems and which locations they are used in.  Only by mapping the usage of the technology to the real business processes can you start to understand where complexity, alignment or coverage is creating issues, whether in costs or service levels.

Step 2 – Document your costs

It seems obvious that any strategy must cover the costs of the IT within the business, however it is surprising how few businesses really have a good handle on their total spend.  Rigorously rooting out all IT costs within the organisation is important, as many may be embedded in services to other departments or paid directly by business areas. This is a vital starting point to projecting future spend that must be part of any IT strategy. It is also critical to map spending as such, i.e. step one – look at the areas of consumption to see where the highest cost concentration is, etc. Only then is possible to identify areas of concern and opportunities for improvement.

Step 3 – Understand your services versus business objectives

Any IT strategy must align itself to the overall objectives of the organisation. Therefore, understanding and documenting the current and future business objectives as a scorecard must be a critical step to delivering the vision.  Taking the top 7 to 10 overall business objectives and benchmarking how the various parts of the organisation meet these (whether through survey or interview) is the next step.  Taking the results and mapping them to the dimensions in steps 1 and 2 will reveal where there are problems and opportunities related to the systems/services used by the business that might prevent development.

Step 4 – Review your service levels

The final part of documenting the current state of affairs is to review every system and service against the service level expectations.  Setting service objectives and understanding which areas are failing on these brings a further set of considerations for adjustment in the strategy.  Few organisations take the time to review all their services for effectiveness on a regular basis. By mapping the results of the service and business objectives scorecard with the complexity and cost measures, the areas for focus in stage 2 will become clearer. In my next blog I will share the second stage of the process.

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