10 Things to consider when writing your IT Strategy

You need to have a strategy for your companies IT.  Your directors, investors and auditors will expect to see your strategy paper. If you are responsible for your companies IT you need to make sure you’ve got this in place and that you are keeping it up to date.

The most essential points to consider:

  1. Your IT strategy must be clearly aligned with the business strategy – in simple terms how will the company use IT to deliver its strategy.  Make sure your IT strategy paper makes references back to the key points in the business strategy documents. Make sure that the key stakeholders and their priorities are detailed along with the overall business objectives.  Work with the business to understand the market the business operates in and what your competitors are doing.  If your company operates across multiple countries or business units make sure that it works for all of them and no just one of them.   The strategy should be consistent across countries and business units – if it isn’t then make sure you clearly document the reason for the inconstancy.
  2. Make sure that the strategy is affordable.  It’s no good coming up with a strategy that fails immediately because it needs more funding than your company can provide.  Your strategy has to be to give the company what it needs at a price it can afford – that’s where your skill as an IT Manager comes in.
  3. Make sure that the strategy addresses any regulatory and corporate governance requirements.  If you have an internal audit department you should consider them a key stakeholder and make sure you address their requirements.  If you don’t have internal audit then set-up a meeting with you company auditors and see what they will require at year end.
  4. Consider how critical IT is to your businesses day-to-day operations.  If they could happily carry on work for a few days with the IT Systems offline then your strategy will be very different to a business  that depends on their IT to trade online and delivery goods digitally across the internet in real-time.
  5. Make sure you, your directors and your staff know where to find the IT Strategy document.  This shouldn’t be something you write once to keep someone happy, it should be the guiding principles you are working to.
  6. Make sure your staff and the wider company understand the IT strategy buy into it and accept it.  Never turn down an opportunity to present the strategy or updates on the strategy to the company.
  7. Make sure there is formal written approval for the strategy on file.  Your auditors and investors will want to see that the paper has gone through a review process, it’s been subjected to some challenge and has been signed off.
  8. You need to be clear in the strategy about how it supports the critical internal and external drivers for change.  These might be how you are planning to use technology to reduce internal operating costs or they might be how you intend to help the company compete in the market place.
  9. Continuous Improvement Process: The strategy should explain how its success will be measured and what the process is for refining and changing the strategy. This should become a self sustaining process that works to continually improve the business through IT excellence.
  10. You must keep the strategy up to date.  That shouldn’t mean rewriting it every year – something would be very wrong if that was necessary. You need to review the strategy with the updates business plans and with a view to external drivers to see if it’s still relevant or if some modifications are needed. Make sure any papers you produce clearly show who the owner is and the date of the last review and the scheduled date of the next review.  Ideally the strategy paper should include a section on what the process will be for keeping the strategy up to date.

That’s my top 10 list of things I include when developing an IT strategy for a company and the things I look for when reviewing the strategies in companies I visit.  If you have any other suggestions I’d love to hear from you.  Also if you find this list useful do please let me know.