With the pending end to the year and a new financial year starting for many of our clients I pose this question to you: why is it that the business cycle for strategy and budgets must so often be annual? We see so often in the corporate landscape that firms aligned decisions processes to artificial cycles driven by financial reporting. Good ideas have to wait until they match the budget and finance cycle and in my view (as well as possibly many others who felt trapped by this before) this just does not make sense. I have written on this topic before (“Same procedure as every year”) and I strongly believe it is time that organisations break the annual cycle deadlock.
In the early days of IT we saw the simple capture of data and automation of basic repetitive processes – frankly by around the 1990s this wave of automation was largely complete. We have seen in the subsequent years the rise of the automation of reporting and monitoring systems. It is now time for the automation of decision making. All around from the rise of Big Data to the social network, semi-automated decision making processes are now enabling sound decision making, e.g. where to invest money, who to connect with on Linkedin to where to have lunch.
The BBC draws attention in it’s article Why IT failures at big companies are unlikely to go away to one of the largest challenges in developing and defining an end to end strategy – the aging of software – for organisations, especially larger, older and more complex ones. However, not only is this a challenge for larger organisations but also for SMEs. It is all to easy for reasons of economy to avoid upgrades, bypass patches and to generally keep the status quo. The article states that maybe as much as 20% of any software in organisations, and not just big banks, is out of date. Any house or car owner knows the perils of failing to update things before they reach the end of their life – would you drive a car with worn of tyres or eat something that has already past the best before date? But somehow we are happy to run software that is years past its replacement date.
We have seen wave after wave of technical innovation hit the technology market place over the past decades. Picking the IT trends that will impact your company; selecting the ones to ignore and the ones to surf ahead on early is an art that makes or breaks companies. The “bricks to clicks” revolution that started in 2000 is still hitting companies today and those that lagged behind are slowly dying. In this blog I want to highlight some things that your company may need to consider and understand the impact of right now.
On our cibsys website we have been writing about the challenges of governing your IT portfolio – http://www.cibsys.com/index.php/ten-questions-to-ask-your-it-department/. When thinking about this sort of thing it is also worth considering how your organisation responds to the external market place and the sometimes radical trends that come at organisations. Out there in the sea of the real world there are millions of ideas surfacing every day; these ideas coalesce into waves that can batter an organisation. Increasingly we have seen waves of disruptive technology hit businesses and there is now a blur between business strategy and IT/technical strategy, so much so that the two become more and more intertwined. Each organisation needs to have a process for watching the sea of IT technology and trends (and the same in the wider market place) and decide which waves it needs to catch.
One of the main problems with those facing change within their IT structure is the lack of commitment to a great IT strategy. Simply put, unless you follow through and commit to your strategy, it will never get done.
Going into companies as a IT consultancy, I have seen all sorts of manifestations of this – mainly in a reluctance to let go of old systems. The task of assessing old servers kept in broom cupboards, personal databases operating outside of the main corporate framework, through to racks of servers in data centres still running ancient hardware is often a daunting one. It is likely that nobody knows exactly what is where and how accurate data can be extracted.
In the final stage of the process you should be looking at defining your roadmap and multi-year plan. i.e. how you plan to move forward with your IT strategy in the future. This blog completes the steps recommended for an effective IT strategy.
With an idea of the target vision for the IT systems and services the final step to a comprehensive strategy is to define the steps and to implement it. It is not just sufficient to say what changes will be made but also to define how the services will evolve to improve costs, provide a costs benefit against business targets and how service levels will be adjusted. Ideally at each step behaviour changes in the organisation and changes to process flows will be needed too.
This blog post explores the second of three stages of my twelve step process towards an effective IT strategy. At this stage we look at defining the target IT landscape you would ideally like to achieve with your strategy.
At the heart of any strategy is the target landscape of systems and services that needs to be built in order to achieve the business goals. It is absolutely critical that this landscape is built not on the whims of individual departments and characters (including the CIO) but in a more holistic way aligned to the business objectives and also in a way to resolve specific issues. The old saying “if it aint broke don’t fix it” goes a long way in this stage.
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.
There is no magic formula for creating an effective IT strategy, and the process can sometimes be long and seemingly never-ending without solid and experienced advice. There are a number of over-arching guiding steps and processes that can be applied to create one for a firm. Working as and with consultants for many years I have managed to refine the key principles into 12 steps that provide method, focus and structure to delivering an effective strategy. Using this experience we have been able to create a template for IT strategy and use it in real world case studies to deliver effective decisions on strategy.
Using our method there are three phases to creating the framework needed for an IT strategy. Simply put, these are: assess where you are, set on your targets and decide on your roadmap to get there.