Tips to Prepare and Execute a Successful IT Strategy

Having an IT strategy can mean the difference between your company’s success and failure. It’s the plan to get your business from where it is now to where you want it to be, including how it will get there, and what changes need to happen in the meantime. It’s not hard to write an IT strategy; however, you need to make sure you prepare and execute your strategy properly in order to ensure its success. Here are 10 tips to help you prepare and execute a successful IT strategy.

1) Information Technology is Moving Fast

StrategyIn today’s world, there is always something new going on in terms of IT trends. Whether it’s updating existing systems or adopting new ones, businesses need to make sure they keep up with these changes if they want to stay competitive. Your IT strategy should be built around what you define as success for your business. This will also help clarify your objectives and expected outcomes from using technology. It can be tempting to simply implement whatever makes sense at first glance but defining success first forces you to take a long-term view toward achieving those goals. That way you can identify risks and measure your progress towards results. Take advantage of automation: At its core, business automation involves making processes more efficient by increasing visibility into them through data collection. By automating processes throughout your company, particularly back-office operations like accounting or HR, you enable employees to concentrate on more complex tasks that benefit the bottom line instead of mundane administrative tasks that are necessary for getting paid each month. Automation solutions are relatively inexpensive compared to an initial investment cost versus their ROI over time.

2) Understand Business Drivers

The starting point for any IT strategy is identifying what your business drivers are—what does your company need to succeed? Look at both your internal business needs (keeping employees, for example) and external business needs (attracting new customers). The next step is figuring out how technology can help. For instance, you might need better online customer service capabilities or more sophisticated automation of back-office functions. Or perhaps you want to optimize end-user experiences with mobile devices. Your goal here is to create opportunities; it doesn’t matter which ones you choose, but if all businesses in your industry need to optimize their interactions with customers via social media, then it makes sense for yours to do so as well. Find ways that technology can enable growth without undue risk; don’t dive into anything that will require significant time or budget before validating that users actually want it. Last but not least, ask yourself: What problem does my business have today that we don’t solve very well with technology? If you can address one of these problems in an innovative way, consider exploring what other solutions could be found to address others.

3) Pinpoint Information Technology Priorities

Your primary job as CIO is to create a strategy for deploying technology throughout your company. But before you can do that, you have to know what is most important. Start by identifying your key business priorities—the core drivers of your organization’s growth. Then, prioritize these top three business drivers into three information technology goals that will help reach them. For example, if one of your primary goals is increasing market share, then improving inventory management may be one of your most important IT objectives. The same principle applies when creating smaller IT sub-strategies within each major goal. To do so, ask yourself: Which specific tasks are necessary to accomplish my goal? Once you answer that question, list those items as steps in your sub-strategy. For instance, increasing quality control might be one part of an overall plan for boosting inventory efficiency. Next, it’s time to break down your strategies even further with actionable tactics. Instead of focusing on broad ideas like maximize productivity, define which tools you need to make each tactic successful (e.g., CRM software). Finally, assign responsibilities for achieving each objective among members of senior leadership or departmental teams.

4) Choose the Right Solution

Before you begin any new initiative, be sure your plan is approved by senior management. To get their buy-in, first ask for their input. They’ll understand better than anyone what they’re getting in return for investing in your strategy, and will likely support it wholeheartedly once you explain it to them. Not only will having senior management on board increase your chances of success; it’ll also make things run more smoothly down the road. Engaging top executives from day one will help ensure that issues don’t arise because someone wasn’t looped in properly. This lets you execute a cohesive business strategy from start to finish. For example, many companies invest heavily in mobile technology without giving thought to broader internal initiatives – perhaps around mobility – that should also come into play before pouring money into phones and tablets. Ensure all moves align with each other as part of a bigger picture rather than as isolated tasks with unclear purposes. Make Sure You Have Everything You Need: One advantage to building out your strategy ahead of time is that you can easily identify all needed resources upfront. If budgeting comes into play, no surprises (read: heartburn) later down the line. The last thing anyone wants during launch or at midpoint is for an important resource to be missing due to red tape or lack of communication within an organisation.

5) Commit Senior Management Support

Getting buy-in from your company’s senior management team is crucial when it comes to successfully implementing an IT strategy. Without their support, you risk being perceived as taking too much control over project direction, putting your job at risk. But when top brass supports your efforts, you’ll have access to valuable knowledge, networking opportunities and long-term career advancement opportunities that can help you succeed in today’s fast-paced business world. Once you’ve won them over, make sure your plan includes regular check-ins with managers who are working on related projects to ensure clear communication of project goals, strategies and performance metrics throughout implementation. This also ensures all participants are on board with whatever changes come along during execution. A good way to keep everyone on track is to create regular meeting agendas where both objectives for that week are reviewed prior to each meeting; then participants only need review what they missed or how their work progressed since last week. Participants can provide additional insight into decisions by updating attendees about anything important that may not have been addressed in previous meetings. Keep these sessions brief—ideally no longer than 30 minutes—so you don’t lose interest or alienate your staff. If things are moving well, use quick 5- to 10-minute meetings once every other week instead. Also be sure to promote transparency within all teams involved in executing your strategy by encouraging ideas and suggestions for change when possible without sacrificing forward progress.

6) Choose People Over Processes

The entire point of creating an IT strategy is to direct your business toward greater success. This requires you to trust your employees and let them do their jobs—which means avoiding processes so rigid that people can’t do their jobs effectively. The best way to execute an effective strategy is by having good people in place who can quickly adapt when conditions change. When crafting strategies, then, put people first and process second.

The best way to do that is by building processes that enable effective decision-making. A good process doesn’t hold people back; it helps them make better decisions, providing them with insight they can use on-the-fly. The more easily you can respond to changing conditions, then, the more successful your strategy will be.

7) Build a Robust Team

Communication is vital. You want your team members, regardless of their positions in your organisation, on board with your IT strategy from beginning to end. Keep them informed about what’s going on throughout every step of planning and execution. #Write an Executive Summary: Your executive summary should provide readers with an overview of who you are, why you’re qualified to write about business/IT strategy, what your focus will be (including which strategies you’ll tackle), and how long you think it will take for you to complete it. It shouldn’t exceed one page. The shorter it is, the better. Be clear and concise. Highlight key points with bullets or diagrams if need be; don’t leave any room for confusion! Include some background information on what inspired you to work towards creating an IT strategy; personal anecdotes can help instil trust between yourself and your audience. But don’t go overboard – try not to use too many buzzwords, clichés or industry-specific terms either – research shows that data-driven posts attract more attention than those filled with fluff.

8) Know How to Manage Change

Your strategy is only as good as how it’s communicated, so take time in planning meetings or one-on-one conversations with your team members. An effective approach here would be to ask questions and encourage brainstorming. This is also an opportunity for you, as a leader, to listen closely, clarify misunderstandings and inspire commitment. And while you don’t want to hear no during these sessions, don’t take a vote just for vote’s sake—if someone disagrees with something, but doesn’t have any alternate idea(s), he/she may be speaking from pride rather than genuine concern. In addition, if someone has a thoughtful point about something that should change, respect his/her opinion and add it to your list of issues to address during implementation. Remember, everyone has ideas—even people who disagree; simply acknowledge them and move on. We all know you can never please everyone; no one expects perfection, they expect growth.

9) Communicate Effectively Throughout Planning and Execution

Don’t underestimate how important communication is. From planning to execution, your team needs constant feedback from you, as well as those who may be affected by your decisions. If something doesn’t work as expected or as planned, or if someone has an objection, inform them of that immediately so that everyone knows what’s going on and can adjust their plans accordingly. Communicate frequently throughout these processes—face-to-face whenever possible—and include new information in your next update. Communicating frequently allows individuals throughout your organization to help refine and improve processes based on what they know right now, helping avoid costly mistakes when it comes time for implementation.

10) Stay Tuned for Changes in The Industry

Stay on top of industry changes and trends. Keep abreast of new technologies. If you’re not willing to make adaptations in your business, you could be knocked out by someone who is. You can read about today’s technology news online or through popular print publications such as Wired magazine. Both are excellent resources for staying up-to-date with technology developments and their influence on society and business. If you want to focus specifically on IT strategies, consider subscribing to specific blogs that cover hot topics related to virtualization solutions like VMware. These bloggers also often review different products within their areas of expertise; studying these product reviews can help you choose what’s best for your organization. And don’t forget about social media! Here are some tips from Tim McDonald, author of The Social Media Book 2012: Everything You Need to Know About Social Media Marketing in One Easy-to-Use Reference For Dummies: Entertain With Links—Make sure your posts have links back to other relevant content inside your company site, along with links to outside information that reinforces or adds value.

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