It’s likely that your company’s IT needs are ever-changing, both to remain competitive in your industry as well as ensure that processes run smoothly. How can you better address these needs even as your company grows or changes? Enter IT strategic planning.
What Can IT Strategic Planning Accomplish?
When your company’s technological assets aren’t running smoothly — whether it be your devices or hardware, software, telecommunications, security, data access, etc. — it’s likely that your employees will notice. Your productivity will take a hit, and your customers may have difficulty interacting with or purchasing your products or services. Frequent technological issues may even lose those customers.
However, planning ahead limits the chance of these incidents and encourages growth. Returns on investment from IT strategic planning have been reported as high as 700% from some Fortune 500 companies and government agencies.
Who Participates in IT Strategic Planning?
IT is one of the biggest business expenditures. So who actually comes up with a strategic IT plan and how to use these resources? It’s important to include all departments in the development process. Focus on the business needs, challenges, and opportunities of each department — you don’t have to address your IT strategy as solely an IT issue — it’s more about departmental goals, how they support overarching business goals, and how IT can help reach them. You should keep each of the departments in the loop in every step of plan development in order to gather feedback and make any necessary adjustments.
Depending on the tech-savviness of either you or your employees, your IT strategy may develop completely in-house. However, it’s likely that you will enlist the efforts of an IT consultant or firm to address your IT needs and assist in the development of your IT strategic plan. Reaching out to experts can not only keep you in the loop on industry trends or emerging technologies, but also ensure your investment is optimized.
What Are the Steps to Developing an IT Strategic Plan?
IT strategic planning is divided in three stages.
- Determine the needs of your departments and establish any priorities based on company goals.
- Analyze the needs of each department through the scope of IT. A consultant can help you determine how each department can get where they want to go.
- Review IT and determine the efficacy of the assets themselves. A consultant can also help in this step of the process and make further suggestions.
Feedback throughout this process from your various departments is essential to make sure they have the tools they need. For example, any of your departments may need more space to store files or more processing power to access those files.
Your IT plan should develop over a period of several months — it’s not something that can be done in a handful of meetings. Several months of planning allows you to gather enough information about your current IT assets, how well they’re working, and what other goals you would like to reach.
What IT Strategic Planning Is and What It Isn’t
In short, strategic IT planning helps your company acquire necessary IT as well as plan for evolving needs. Your plan should remain separate from other business strategies. However, it should include wishes from all departments in one cohesive package. The objectives or goals can be as specific or as general as your company would like. Ultimately, it’s up to senior executives or managers to pull everything together. This can all change as time goes on, as your plan isn’t permanent.
What Timeframe Should Your Planning Cover?
Generally, an IT plan accounts for a three- to five-year period. After this period, your business can revisit your plan and establish what worked and what didn’t. This is another chance for departments to provide feedback. It’s also crucial to update your IT plan periodically to account for changes as your company grows.