IT Strategy – what do those two words mean together? What do we mean when we say that we are working on IT Strategy?
In a prior post Vision Strategy Policy I talked about the relationships between Vision and Strategy. I also talked about how goals can relate to vision or strategy, and what I think that means.
So now I want to define IT Strategy – I would insert the word delivery, yielding IT Delivery Strategy, to make it clearer what we are talking about. We are talking about delivering Information Technology capabilities to some customer (internal or external), and how we will organize ourselves to deliver these capabilities.
IT delivery requires the following components:
1) Talent (staff acquisition, retention, development, mobility, scalability, succession planning, leadership)
2) Funding ( treasury, capital, expense, revenue, cost management, planning )
3) Acquisition/Procurement ( contracts, purchasing, negotiation, vendor management, licensing, payment )
4) Product Development ( capability definition, platform rationalization, product portfolio management, prioritization, release management, application life cycle management, design, construction )
5) Information ( content management, information architecture, data governance, storage capacity planning, master data management )
6) Architecture ( technology platform selection, platform life cycle management, implementation patterns and practices )
7) Infrastructure ( hardware, network, middleware, application server, data storage services, facilities, operations )
8) Maintenance ( availability, performance, defect remediation, platform and product currency )
9) Customer Service (help desk, engagement management, service level agreement, incident management )
10 Demand Management ( capacity planning, budget, forecasting, project portfolio management )
11) Process/Practice (SDLC, agile, design methodology, developer tools, audit, dev ops )
12) Security/Risk ( information security, backup and recovery, business continuity )
Maybe it has many many more components, but in my mind you cannot effectively deliver information technology capabilities without these. Whether you are a 2 person shop or a 1000 person shop, this is what you need. As I evaluate the list above, I recognize that there are inherent conflicts between different aspects on that list. It is difficult to improve one without there being consequences for another.
In order to cast strategy for any or all of these components, we need a vision explaining the end or goal state of IT delivery in terms of that component. In that goal state is some explicit description of why and how this goal state is important in the context of our ability to deliver information technology capabilities to our customer. Our strategy is simply the list of things we are going to do or change in order to make the goal state a persistent reality.
If our list of action steps does not include changes to policy (or organizational culture for that matter) it is likely that the goal state will not stick. Our current policies and culture have allowed/caused us to get to the state we are in now. We are defining a new strategy because the current state is inadequate in one or more ways. Think of our goal as a new pasture for the herd of cats we manage. If our strategy gets all the cats from the old pasture to the new pasture, our policies are the fences and the gates that keep the cats in the new pasture once we have gone through all the trouble and effort to move them there.
Interestingly, strategies focused on changing one component may have consequences for other components. We cannot blindly propose strategies that take us closer to goal states in one component while taking us further from goal states in others. If your goal is to reduce cost, but your infrastructure cost reduction strategy increases the cost of product development have you actually reduced cost? No, you have simply moved the cost around.
Likewise, strategies that assume a result inferred from a change may implement the change and not realize the result. If your goal is to increase customer satisfaction by meeting service level agreements for system performance and availability, and you meet the SLA’s but only because you deferred the delivery of new application features customer satisfaction may not increase as you had hoped.
The effectiveness of every strategy can only be measured by whether on the whole, it brings us closer to the goal state. Circling the goal is not an indicator of effective strategy…