Why is it Important to Incorporate IT into Your Strategic Planning?
If you are part of a team (or even leading a team) planning out the business and operating strategy of your organization, then congratulations! You are engaging in an exciting process of developing strategies for successful business operations. What is a position of provide and responsibility, however, can also feel like herding cats. Expenses and budgets are going to compete with short- and long-term goals, competing priorities, and the daily-shifting landscape of modern business tech, making your job that much harder.
So, the absolute worst thing you can do is ignore the role of your information technology infrastructure in your strategic planning. That’s because any business plan you make is going to rely on the advancement of communication technologies, cloud storage and computation, and innovation in wireless smart devices to compete in a modern work force.
Here, we’ll outline the importance of incorporating IT into your strategic planning. We’ll also spend time talking about some basic considerations to have when you do incorporate it.
Potential Relationships Between Your Long-Term Plan and Information Technology
When creating a long-term business plan for your organization, you are also essentially creating a long-term IT plan (and an IT budget) with it. That’s because that modern business is inseparable from questions of IT infrastructure.
As you build a strategic plan, or even develop a strategic planning framework, consider that incorporating IT into your plan will allow you to do several crucial things:
- Ensure that your budget will include funding for purchasing new IT equipment, updating equipment, and building out your existing work processes. If your plan is going to rely on a technical infrastructure, then not having that infrastructure, or the IT budget to support it, is going to severely limit the effectiveness of your planning endeavors.
- Ensure that your current and future IT structure and IT budget will support goals regarding growth during the scope of the strategy. The importance of planning for new equipment cannot be overstated. With any data-driven or communication-oriented plan, you’re going to need (at minimum) a plan for storage (and backups), mobile devices and data plans, collaborative software, and a unified workflow using a set of software tools. And that’s just the logistical portion of the plan, outside any technology you need to directly support your business operation.
- Map out an accurate upgrade funding path for future technology based on future goals. Having a map for future technology is going to help you think about the new ways to streamline work and minimize costs. For example, if you’ll need more and more storage over a 3 to 5 year time frame, then you will be able to plan out if you want to migrate to cloud storage and prepare for that eventuality. Likewise, if you know that your operation is going to branch out into extensive network data transmission (like in an Internet of Things system) then you’ll have to have a plan on addressing security concerns, which will prompt a focus on existing security software at that time.
Information Technology Strategy Framework
With that in mind, your strategic planning models are going to have to include a framework for identifying IT needs against business models and IT budgets. Your projected technology requirements must speak to your long-erm planning and goals, and your budget needs to reflect the technical reality of that plan.
A few key items to decide on when developing your framework are:
What are the goals of this project, and what does success mean?
This might be a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised to hear how many planners only a vague notion has of what their goals are. As such, any attempt they make to effectively frame an IT budget or strategy is limited to the very-short term.
What types of technology are needed? –
An IoT project is going to need different technology and software than a cloud storage solution for a small office. But by having a clear understanding of goals and needs, you can also get a clear understanding of the types of technology needed.
What is the timeline?
This is going to affect your IT budget and the constraints you have purchasing and deploying any new or existing technology.
What are the metrics used to determine the effectiveness of a given technology?
You don’t want to be two or three years into a project just to realize that your data analysis platform, used by 20 of your team mates, doesn’t provide the views you all actually need to make decisions. A strategic IT plan will include criteria to assess the effectiveness of adopted technologies, with further outlines for how to replace that technology.
How much is all of this going to cost?
Of course, you need to know how much this all costs. Tables and spreadsheets with accurate pricing for licensing, hardware procurement, subscription fees, and any maintenance or external support should be accurately updated during the planning procedure.
Planning Your IT Budget
If you’ve worked through some of the above items, then you can start planning an IT budget within your strategic framework. A strategic planning example that includes IT budgeting will map out the current tech needs of the project, including any fees or support, along with any additional costs on software licenses or devices. This includes the costs for everything involved. It’s easy to count up pricing on Microsoft licenses, but maybe harder to plan out the contract fees on a dozen smart devices tied to a business phone network or the addition of a SIP trunk to your office.
A 5-year strategic plan example that includes IT budgeting will have a clear plan mapped out in the following portions:
- An executive summary that lays out, precisely, the goals of the plan and the strategy implemented. This should be a synopsis of the entire plan.
- A summary of strategic goals, tactics, and themes that outline what the values and priorities of this plan is (raising the bar on quality, reducing total cost of operation, streamlining workflows between remote offices, etc.). With that, there should be a rundown of the “big picture” approaches to achieving these goals.
- A breakdown of each tactic or strategic goal with steps towards proposed success.
- A technical plan that maps out the required technologies that align with the goals. This should include big-picture discussions of the software, hardware, and communication tech needed, with a deeper-dive into specific platforms, components, or services throughout. This portion can fold into a discussion of the tactics and how to achieve them… but for technology or data-driven projects, this should really have its own dedicated section.
- A clear budget that considers new and future costs for the IT infrastructure outlines in the technical plan.
With all those components in place, you can have a very accurate picture of your IT needs in your strategic plan, with equally accurate budgets worked out and clear timelines and criteria for success.
As you might suspect, this is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of planning. And yet, hopefully this article impresses on you the importance of developing a strategic plan that includes extensive IT budgetary concerns built in. It will make your plans run much more smoothly, efficiently, and successfully.