IT strategy: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly
The battle for customers’ attention does not involve open attacks. Still, it's a real battle in which a company faces real rivals with the goal to overcome them. In this context, it’s the matter of life and death - to craft a good business strategy. Such a strategy should cover a company’s activities from different sides: financial planning, expansion into new markets, hunting for best talents and adopting technological advances.
An IT strategy is a concise plan that outlines how to use IT for business development. This plan shows IT department where to go, which effect this will have on the business and how much money will be spent. A good IT strategy becomes a business lever, while a bad one may kill your company.
Good IT strategy
It’s hard to define whether an IT strategy is good or bad before it brings real results. Anyway, before developing an IT strategy, it’s reasonable to identify the features it should have to lead your company in a highly competitive business world. With 28+ years’ experience in software development and IT consulting services, we offer our vision of an effective IT strategy.
- Understandable. Shaped by tech specialists, an IT strategy may contain technology terms that no one outside the IT department understands. Unjustified abundance of buzzwords makes the strategy difficult to understand and implement, causing misinterpretation of its details or even key points. Clarity helps managers to realize where to lead their subordinates. What is more, IT leadership may change, and it will be easier for new management to deal with a brief comprehensive strategy.
- Adaptable. Once approved, an IT strategy needs continuous monitoring and adjustments. A flexible strategy allows a quick response to business decisions: to enter new market, to deliver new products and services, to change organizational structure, to shift business priorities, to update business model, etc.
- Aligned with business. IT strategy is not a plan how to win an innovation race and cram daily operations with technology tricks, it’s about how to support future business needs with IT solutions. IT-business alignment ensures that apps and systems are used in a business-boosting way helping the company to get the upper hand.
- Iterative, or divided into stages. A piece-by-piece implementation gives more control over a strategy and makes performance assessment easier. It also gives the possibility to see into the nature of tacit and explicit weak points and introduce necessary changes with little pain.
- Cost-effective. Strategic planning is impossible without considering the financial side. The market offers an abundance of opportunities, and it’s crucial to identify those that are really worth funding. This will guarantee the return on investment and save from unexpected surprises such as additional expenses.
- Moderately future-oriented. A good IT strategy keeps in balance 2 elements: supporting daily operations and developing for the future (new architecture, new systems, new technologies). Some IT and business leaders focus only on current problems and take no time to establish a long-term strategy. It restrains potentially successful business from decisive moves and lasting development.
A well-thought IT strategy isn’t limited to optimizing the processes within an enterprise. It also contributes to customer satisfaction and helps to open new market prospects.
Bad IT strategy
Even a potentially good strategy can play a bad trick on your business if you leave out of consideration several significant aspects.
- Unrealistic ambitions. A seemingly strong strategy can be too complicated and expensive to implement. Unrealistic ambitions misdirect business leaders and confuse IT managers who are looking for business-supporting IT components.
- Underestimated challenges. Changes are unavoidable in every business, and changes always bring challenges. Let’s take merge and acquisition as an example. In such a situation, cooperating companies face a number of IT-related issues: which apps to use in a joint enterprise, how to unite corporate intranets, databases and more. And it’s not a trivial task because each enterprise is used to following its own IT strategy and aligning these strategies requires time, effort and a professional approach. Underestimated challenges are a time bomb that can explode your business when you least expect.
Does it look like your IT strategy? Remember that following a bad IT agenda a company loses time, money and human resources. It’s a straight way to be outclassed by competitors and get out of business step.
Ugly IT strategy
Even the best analytical job and advanced ideas may be completely spoiled by the inability to formulate thoughts in a comprehensive and succinct manner and join them in a coherent plan.
- Fragmented ideas instead of a solid strategy. It’s a serious pitfall if senior management confuses fragmented plans with a cohesive strategy. At first sight, the set of plans is very similar to a strategy. But a deeper analysis may show that these plans contradict one another.
- Verbosity. Shallow phrases and multiple out-of-scopes hardly contribute to creating a reliable strategy. It makes sense to give more details about certain IT terms and phenomena, but too many irrelevant descriptions make a strategy clumsy and difficult to understand.
The earlier you notice how “ugly” is your IT strategy, the more time you have to save really good ideas and take the path of effective digital transformation.
On a final note
Even if the descriptions of good and not so good strategies seem clear, it’s a really demanding task to develop a desirable strategy and bring it to life. The market is an unpredictable space full of steep turns, and even good IT strategies need to be checked and updated to stand the test of time. It’s never too late to admit wrong steps, take an axe to ineffective actions and clear the way for new benefits.