5 – S’s to IT Strategic Planning

Highway disapearing into the horizon at sunsetThere are probably as many ways to go about framing an IT Strategic Planning process as there are plans. No wrong way, no right way to look down the road and over the horizon. Yet amazingly, when CIO’s are faced with leading IT strategic planning or making annual updates to an existing one they can quickly become overwhelmed with just getting organized.

IT Strategic Planning Examples

Like so many others who find themselves in that situation, you might be tempted to craft a tight little Google search for examples from other colleges you can adapt to fit your own. Maybe a search string like one of these is what you would use:

  • +it strategic plan site:edu filetype:docx
  • 2015 it strategic plan university  site:edu filetype:docx
  • “Information technology strategic plan” community college site:edu filetype:doc

If you choose the Google route, no doubt you will waste valuable time scanning the search results that are better spent doing your own IT strategic planning by drafting an outline of your own story. You’ll waste even more hours rewriting sections of other people’s work to fit your college while struggling to make the words fit your voice. And in the end, you will likely not have something that connects you with your peers because it is overly generic and disconnected from the real challenges and opportunities your institutions needs you to help with.

IT Strategic Planning Process

Instead consider adopting an IT strategic planning process using the 5-S’s offered here as a framework to build your own plan from scratch. The 5-S’s represent universal themes to drive your thoughts. The themes of the 5-S’s  will help you produce a plan that resonates with your peers because it won’t be another list of technology projects they don’t understand.

IT strategic planning doesn’t have to be hard and your plan doesn’t have to be long. In fact it is better that it is short and meaningful, than long and disconnected. 2 pages of bullets which convey a clear vision that is aligned to your institutional priorities and a trajectory are significantly better than 20 pages no one will read or understand what you intend to do. Think executive summary and start writing with input from your team around these themes.

Strategic: List or describe the two or three things you will do to enable the institution to pursue its overall strategy. Be careful. Listing tactical IT projects could show you are not focused on enabling or facilitating the strategic direction of the institution. Describe IT in those initiatives that grow the business through new programs, transforming it through new services or enrollment; improve compliance and reduce institutional risk; raise revenue or improve margins; improve reputation and strengthen community or stakeholder engagement.

Simplification: Within your own organization and systems, describe a strategy for eliminating complexity. In the architecture, the application portfolio, processes, skills required by staff, and any other opportunity to wring out complexity and simplify your world and how your customers engage with it. This is about driving out complexity because it in turns removes the related costs and effects on quality. But it also can be a huge impediment to agility. Put simply the more complex you make it the heavier the burden on everyone.

Service: List or describe two or three of your services for improvement. Ideally, this will be services directly linked to how you will support being Strategic and echo Simplification. You should definitely feel like you have repeated yourself when you are done with this section.

Sustainability: Consider the need to focus on two aspects. First, you should focus on your plan to not start something you are not fully capable of continuing for 5 years. So you may want to focus on improving your IT Governance model so new applications or systems are not brought in that cannot be supported long term because of one-time revenue sources, maintenance costs, or scarcity of skills. Where your plans for simplification eliminate complexity, duplication and waste here you focus on not bringing in new forms of it. Second, you should focus on Green IT. Sustainability throughout the service life-cycle – procurement, operations and retirement.

$avings: I trust this is mostly obvious. But don’t be tricked into thinking it is about cutting your budget. No, the goals of Simplification, Sustainability and $avings are to free up resources (fiscal and human) to be allocated on Strategy. Consider using Gartner’s Run, Grow, Transform approach as I have which would be to shift funds from Running IT to those that will Grow and Transform the institution. This is about minimizing your O&M expenses so that they can be reallocated to strategic discretionary projects so long as they can be done sustainability.

With the 5-S’s of IT Strategic Planning as your framework and a clear intent to find no more than 10 initiatives to describe in total, but that are woven into as many of the 5 S’s as you can. You should emerge from IT strategic planning with a clear vision for your way forward that your institution will understand and support.

Still having second thoughts, give yourself some added structure using Stop, Start, Continue for each item to detail what you will start doing, stop doing or continue doing. Recognizing that stopping something can be incredibly strategic as I hope you see with Simplification. Then you can turn your attention to your tactical plans without much effort.

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3 Responses to 5 – S’s to IT Strategic Planning

  1. Jijy says:

    That's a wonderful set of thoughts.. Jerry. I feel it applies to CIO's across all industries. Warm regards, Jijy

  2. Jerry Bishop says:

    thank you for the kind words Jijy

  3. Indranil says:

    It is a concise, helpful and effective piece of guidelines.

    Thank you Jerry…

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