We have said a number of times on this blog that a strategy is useless unless it is accepted by the organisation and properly executed. You can make any decisions you like in an ivory tower but unless the troops on the ground are aligned – resistence will ensure failure to execute. It is also true to say that strategy is only effective if it evolves on a continuous basis, one of the reasons we built Strategy4IT was to make the documentation of the current state possible – to record not just one moment in time but to rather start a continuous cycle of strategy review and adaption. So, how do you make your organisation ready for change and adapt the necessary culture? Continue reading
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 The article states that maybe as much as 20% of any software in organisations, and not just big banks, is out of date.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.
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.
The other day someone asked me why we, as a small company, have effectively two brands: one focused on delivering IT strategy assessments and transitions and another similar brand with a cloud focus. The question was, is there a difference and do you need two brands?
Initially I was adamant that, yes, there is a big difference. The IT strategy question occupies the entire value chain from business applications, through to IT management and on to the systems services themselves, so it is much wider and much more business process focused then a pure cloud question….. But within a second I had stopped myself. Why? Because each and every part of the IT value chain, whether it is business application software, IT management tools, or the hardware itself, is available in the cloud somewhere, so should be part of the strategy question and decision making.
As a child, I remember very well entering a kite-flying competition; I had a great kite and was certain that I was in with a good chance to winning. However, an hour after the start, my kite string was in such a knotted muddle I spent the rest of the day depressed, desperately trying to untangle it just to get started. I am not sure we ever unravelled the string and I certainly did not get the kite off the ground. What has that got to do with IT strategy? Well, have you ever been presented with one of those wonderful IT system spaghetti diagrams, showing how all the systems and IT components interface together? I suspect if you have you feel rather like I did as a child, unravelling the knots in all that string just trying to get started. The sheer tangled mess of your IT complexity hides the real questions and hinders the decision making.