IT strategic planning can have a lot of benefits that go well beyond the usual list. Here are the ones that we have found matter most.
1. You need to know how to maximize user satisfaction within your resources.
This is the Age of the Customer, and users have more alternatives than ever before. It makes sense, therefore, to keep track of what users want and how they feel about IT’s services. This seems obvious, but we’ve noticed that it’s done in practice a lot less often than it should be. A systematic needs assessment and plans for regular user surveys often can help a lot.
2. You need to know how to align your efforts to top management’s agenda.
Sometimes, organizations make strategic plans, which make it fairly easy to understand what IT must do. Sometimes, however, the process is less systematic and communications are less than optimal. It is possible for parties to feel that others are out of touch. Ultimately, however, alignment is necessary. Gathering opinions on this from all concerned in an IT plan can provide a new channel of communication.
3. You need to get your planning ahead of the budget cycle.
A common issue we’ve found is that budgeting tends to replace planning. The kind of positional bargaining that often takes place at budget time is not the same as basing priorities on the organization’s most important needs. A plan can get you ahead of the budget process and base decisions on fundamental interests and industry standards.
4. You need to prioritize a large number of competing demands.
Competing departmental priorities do not always consider needs that help the whole organization, such as robust infrastructure, a well-functioning help desk or up-to-date hardware and software. On the other hand, some departmental priorities really are critical. A plan allows competing demands to be put in the context of overall needs.
5. You need to get a handle on runaway development outside IT.
Particularly in foundations, it’s sometimes appropriate for outside developers to work with programs or departments on special projects. You do not, however, want to be put in the position of cleaning up after a development effort that has been mismanaged. Policies for appropriate participation by IT should be in place, and a strategic plan is a great place to discuss this.
6. You want to do planning, but you never seem to have time for it.
It’s easy to postpone strategic planning in favor of current crises, but eventually the lack of communication, consensus and good priorities can become a crisis of its own. You certainly don’t want to let it go so long that management commissions a strategic IT plan on its own. Moreover, specific policies, such as disaster recovery procedures, can simply become out of date and difficult to use when needed.
7. You could use an outside opinion.
At times, the best ideas for an organization can be seen as self-serving initiatives. An objective outside view can disentangle the people from the issues and help the best solutions get approved.
To learn more about CGNET’s strategic planning services, click here.