When it comes time to set your IT budget, obviously it’s easiest to fall back on the attitude of, “Let’s just do the same thing we did last year.” However, this means that you will be stuck with an IT approach for the upcoming year defined primarily by what that budget can allow. This leaves little room for discussion on the specific needs and goals of individual departments and their staff, which could lead to some bad feelings and frustration. You may also be missing out on opportunities for improvement that could greatly affect – if not transform – your organization.
The fix for this is to think about “flipping the script”: If you can come up with an IT strategy roadmap first, then you can actually craft your budget, instead of letting the budget dictate what you can and cannot do. You will not only be acting strategically, but in the process, also encouraging participation and communication between IT and other departments. This will pay off later in terms of acceptance and adoption of new software, programs and policies. So, let’s talk about how to come up with an IT strategy roadmap that works for you.
Just the basics
First let me say this: Like that (rather awful) expression about skinning a cat, there are also many (many!) ways to go about doing this. So, in this post, I will just stick to a very simple, general plan. That way, you can decide for yourself if it is something you might want to try to tackle on your own. Depending on the size of your IT staff — and your organization in general — you may or may not need to get outside help. And if you do feel you are able to take on an IT strategy roadmap yourself, seek out more detailed guidance beforehand.
Before getting started
To prepare for this process, you’ll want to think about – and try to answer – some “big picture” questions:
- In general terms, how can technology help your organization better achieve its mission?
- What are the goals of your various departments and programs?
- How do you think your organization might evolve over the next few years?
- Does everyone involved — staff, leaders, and partners — have the resources needed to do their best work?
- Does your current technology help or hinder your collaborative efforts?
- Do your current IT policies align with your core values?
The answers to these preliminary questions can help shape both your interdepartmental discussions and prioritization exercises later.
Your first step – and possibly the most important – is to interview leaders from each department. Ask them to share their current and future needs in all aspects of IT. For example, are they happy with the software they are currently using? Do they feel they have adequate resources for their staff? Is their hardware outdated and in need of replacement? You should also review existing IT policies and determine if they are working well, or if they need to be shored up (or changed entirely). Use both your interviews and policy review to see if there are procedures that are outdated or missing altogether. Compare what you find out to what you know your organization’s overall vision and goals to be.
Review your IT infrastructure
This step requires you to inventory your IT infrastructure. This inventory includes the major hardware, software and other tools used throughout your organization. You also need to consider technology that is specific to each department, and how it fits in with your company’s overall architecture.
In this phase of your IT strategy roadmap, you will need to run vulnerability software and scan your network for known security vulnerabilities. Be sure to include all cloud-based, partner and vendor applications your organization uses. Likewise, you will want to scan your website(s) for known vulnerabilities. You’ll also want to review your Active Directory for risky accounts and evaluate administrative settings. Being the most technical part of the assessment, this may not be something you feel comfortable doing yourself. Or perhaps you simply don’t have the resources with which to do it. In that case, seek out professionals who know how to run and analyze these types of tests.
Needs assessment and evaluation
Now it’s time to pull your notes together and organize them so they tell a convincing story. Based on the above interviews and results of the architecture review and security testing, conduct a complete assessment of everything you discovered. You’ll want to do the following in your assessment:
- Analyze the gap between current and future needs
- Budget out what improvements might cost
- Prioritize a list of needs based on both urgency and budgetary concerns
Draw up your IT strategy roadmap
Now that you’ve got your prioritized list, come up with timelines for implementing changes. With all the information you’ve collected, create a roadmap that demonstrates
- Each IT initiative you would like to roll out, with a timeframe
- The specific goal that it helps to achieve
- How each initiative will benefit the organization as a whole
In addition, one of the best ways to earn buy-in by those who approve budgetary decisions is to include your strategic reasoning for every initiative alongside that initiative, on the roadmap itself. But if you choose not to include it on the actual roadmap, be sure to present your reasoning – and specifically what it is based on – at the same time as you present the roadmap. You can find various IT strategy roadmap templates on the internet. Or you can create your own using the project management tool you feel most comfortable with.
One final piece of advice: Be sure your roadmap – as well as any supporting evidence or arguments — is straightforward and easy for everyone to understand. Particularly people who do not work in IT and may not be as technically savvy. Because the last thing you want to have happen is to not get your initiative approved because someone “just doesn’t get it”!