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When considering an IT strategic plan, we can do no worse than start at the top. The US department of State has its own IT strategic plan and there are three elements to it:
Digital diplomacy – that’s government speak for supporting collaboration; in its case, it talks about internal and external stakeholders.
Cloud Computing: So this is all about providing access to information from multiple locations. The US Department of State talks about providing access to all US agencies operating overseas, and with a robust world wide web based structure. But there is more to the Cloud than providing common access to the same information – the Cloud is also about providing flexibility, and the ability to ramp up and ramp down certain IT functionality.
State’s IT leadership: this is about effective governance and focuses on accountability.
Technology is changing business; it is creating disruption – as the above passage shows it is even affecting the US Department of State. And that is why there is a need for an IT strategic plan, it is what stops a business from being reactive, bowing to short-term pressures, losing sight of the long-term priorities.
But, as Accenture points out, there are conflicts. Innovation and disruption require a quick response; legacy systems are associated with deliberate care. Somehow these two conflicting needs must be reconciled.
But for the Chief Information Officer (CIO) there is a danger, suggests Accenture, this individual risks being restricted to just tending legacy.
In a survey, Accenture found that 81 per cent of people questioned felt that IT organisations do not know how to operate effectively while supporting multiple objectives at the same time, but 70 per cent thought that their IT organisation could operate and simultaneously support multiple business objectives.
It is that conflict again – legacy, operating effectively, and multiple objectives.
It may be worth contrasting Accenture’s suggested route forward with the US Department of state’s IT strategic plan.
Accenture emphasises recognition of the different needs, to be able to reconcile the need for multiple speed when applying IT. It also refers to multiple governance, supporting both agile and iterative needs, supporting faster change and the users experience. Then it discusses how an IT strategic plan needs to re-think architectural needs – thus supporting multiple requirements, simplifying legacy, supporting greater agility and reducing cost pressures. And finally, Accenture talks about inventing a new IT organisation – deciding what new skill sets are required, for example.
But being more specific, an IT strategic plan needs to have a wide scope – covering all aspects of relevant technology. It also needs to cover:
Maybe the core point to bear in mind is that an IT strategic plan must have clearly laid out goals.
An IT strategic plan does not write itself, neither can it be written overnight. Allow at least three months, but don’t take more than a year to produce the plan.
Ensure that the plan is presented succinctly. According to CIO.com, if the IT strategic plan is in the form of a word document, ensure it is no more than 15 pages, if it is in the form of Power Point, no more than 25 slides.
CIO.com also says make sure that the scope of the IT strategic plan is far reaching and doesn’t just apply to infrastructure. In this respect, it recommends a technology roadmap to support the plan.
It also suggests that there should be a short statement of purpose.
And finally, there needs to be a means for checking progress, an ability to measure against goals.
Or, to borrow from the US Department of State: an IT strategic plan: diplomacy – meaning supports collaboration, Cloud computing – supports flexibility, and governance – meaning cost control and tracking progress against purpose and the plan.