Saturday, June 22, 2013

What're the most Effective Strategic Tools for CIOs?

The "strategic" part of the planning process is the continual attention to current changes in the organization and its external environment.

Strategic planning identifies where the organization wants to be at some point in the future and how it is going to get there. Although typical strategy sessions are an annual, week-long event, the strategy should be 30-40% of any C-level executive's job in their actions and plans, on an ongoing basis, albeit far more informal than the annual event. What’re the most effective strategic tools for CIOs? IT Roadmap or Enterprise Architecture?

 As in reality, most of the IT strategic plans are built based more on an empiric approach, and many IT strategic plans are either disconnect from business strategy or failure to execute effectively. In addition, should CIOs simply develop IT plans to support existing business strategy or should CIOs, in addition, be working in the business to identify areas where IT can make a positive contribution to the bottom line?

1. An Effective IT Strategic Planning is Critical to the Long-term Organizational Success

The "strategic" part of the planning process is the continual attention to current changes in the organization and its external environment, and how this affects the future of the organization. Skills in strategic planning are critical to the long-term success of your organization.

  • The form of planning includes: 
    a) Taking a wide look around at what's going on outside the organization and how it might affect the organization (an environmental scan), and identifying opportunities and threats
    b) Taking a hard look at what's going on inside the organization, including its strengths and weaknesses (perhaps doing a SWOT analysis)
    c) Establishing statements of mission, vision, and values (some prefer to do that as the first step in planning)
    d) Establishing goals to accomplish over the next (usually) three years or so, as a result of what's going on inside and outside the organization
    e) Identifying how those goals will be reached (strategies, objectives, responsibilities, and timelines). 
  • There is a set of goals associated with each strategy - typically a balanced scorecard view - and all strategic execution subordinate functions, contribute to those goals. The WHY (strategy) is potentially satisfied by a set of WHATs (business initiatives) that are executed by a set of HOWs (project efforts). Projects have elements in multiple functional organizations, including IT, so the IT strategy is satisfied just through the WHAT-HOW transitions from corporate strategy. This does not preclude another level of WHAT-HOW transitions within any functional organization, including IT - in fact, it is recommended. Two key points to remember while proceeding through this module are:
    a) The planning process is at least as important as the planning document itself
    b) The planning process is never "done" -- the planning process is a continuous cycle that's part of the management process itself 
  • The IT strategic plan needs to be a community effort, not something the IT team does alone in a corner. You need to talk to the business people, find out what their key initiatives are, and discuss how IT can facilitate, enable or support their initiatives. Talk about shared goals, and shared risks. Discuss timelines and milestones. Identify metrics and KPIs that will be shared across teams, and talk about funding and resource commitments. In many cases, the non-IT players at the big table do not know what IT is capable of providing. Getting engaged at the strategy level communication, if possible, allows far more robust business initiative definition, potentially leveraging the capabilities of IT. This, by itself, will start to ingrain IT into the business more closely. 

2. The "Business Strategic Plan" is one of the best strategic tools for IT

 IT strategic plan must be closely tied to that of the business. At the same time, it must be crafted in such a way that it matches (or enhances) the maturity level of the organization. It must also be compelling so that it does not simply sit on the shelf after it is developed. 

  • IT strategic planning is a necessary process that parallels or follows a business strategic planning process. But largely a process that cuts across all of IT and hopefully Business. First does you organization have a Strategic Business Plan and is you IT strategy part of that. Do you have an IT Strategy that links to the Business Strategy? Take care to not distance yourself from directly linked business value - that is a sure way to become a commodity, and for your business to not be able to realize all the great benefits that integral IT can provide. Take Business strategy as the basis. Then carry-out an As-is assessment of the IT environment and create IT strategy accordingly 
  • Once you've established the action point, you can translate those strategic imperatives into IT initiatives. Whether you do this exercise through roadmaps, "strategy" documents, EA, or smoke signals is irrelevant as long as you ensure IT reflects where the business is going. ? For IT to be effective, you need to accomplish three things:
    1) Get the "utility" aspect of IT solidified
    2) Build your staff into capable business experts rather than inflexible technicians
    3) Learn your business, and its strategic imperatives  
  • On of the key ways that a CIO can become a business leader (and not just a technology leader) is to become connected at the hip with the business. WHAT are you going to do to enable each and every business initiative defined in corporate strategy (assuming you have a corporate strategy that is not just a 3-5 year financial plan, and actually has strategy efforts defined). Then within the IT ranks, you can take each of these WHATs, and figure out the HOW that will implement and execute the strategy effectively. Back this up with descriptions of the projects, portfolio cost, benefit and outline approach, technology, aggregate risk, dependencies and organizational structure changes

3. EA as IT Strategic Tool

Architecture (not IT architecture with an E in front of it) is the cross-functional governance entity that facilitates effective enterprise-holistic decision-making aligned with each strategy and the inter-dependencies of these strategies. EA can be used very well for not only IT Strategic road mapping and planning but also business planning and road mapping. In some mature organizations, it’s happening already. And they are reaping the results.

  • EA is, in fact, a key mechanism in strategic planning; but it should be a strategic tool not only for the CIO but for the whole organization. In the ideal world, EA contributes to the IT strategic planning in various ways and forms, but IT planning would be only one of EA’s core processes and duties - can be its most important in some organizations. An IT roadmap could be well a result of applying an EA approach in IT strategic planning process. EA is the structured approach to designing a target environment. The Roadmap is how to get there. Both are two sides of the same coin. 
  • How can EA frameworks be used to develop IT Strategy for the enterprise? EA frameworks probably should help to put questions intelligently at least on Strategic Business direction of the IT. If you believe IT Strategy is set of initiatives [with budget, capabilities] which can help the organization move from point A to Point B, then EA framework can help.
a - Identify current process, standards, practices of IT in the organization
b - Create a road map for 5 yrs for IT in the organization
c - Do a Gap analysis
d - Propose the IT strategy. 
e-Create Vision, IT Principles
f-Do the Current analysis [this need to be scoped. or else it might take ages to complete]
g-Define target State [this need to be scoped. or else it might take ages to complete]
h-Do Gap and document assumptions.
i-Create Roadmap.

  • Start with Survey, Create business model [identify what- business functions and sub functions], create organization chart [Who, department, structure], Create matrix of the business model and org structure. you will understand who to talk to, do some study on the interview questions- they should generally seek the functional goals and objectives. pain points, areas of improvement, IT expectations etc., applying WHY model and WHAT model are very useful for the top executives of the large organizations. When talking about the business model, you need to differentiate WHAT business model you are talking about or HOW business model you intend to implement. This is important to differentiate. 
  • A lot of EA fails because of rigidity, and duration. The Enterprise Architecture is a critical framework that should support the requirements of the business and will need to be adjusted periodically... We no longer live in the world that runs in years, but one that runs in minutes. Define the business outcomes to be achieved first and reverse engineer the execution, planning, business& technology architecture to then define strategy. This clearly provides alignment between outcome and strategy. Because as the expression goes, life happens between plans. By creating the alignment between outcome and strategy, and the synergy between operating units, much of the resistance, complexity, cost and time to value are removed. Enterprise Architecture also assists in the governance of the synergistic capabilities required to deliver strategically defined business initiatives - and weed out the ones that are not. PROGRAM (vs. Project) Management assists in the governance of synergistic resource capacity in supporting a governance model for execution of strategy.  
As old saying, plan is useless until it's planning, strategic planning is the dynamic process which needs to navigate full sets of Ws: Why, What, How, Who, When and Where., etc, to reflect organization's competitive portfolio, business capabilities, Project Investment Priority, GRC, and talent Development planning., etc, the Strategic Planning Methodology needs to be hybrid, to integrate the valuable industrial models and analytics. The key is: keep it simple and keep it executable


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