How you should create an IT Strategy

As anyone who started his or her own business, like I did, or have been in a senior leadership position with a business, yep I have that too to draw upon.

experience

You were likely asked to add to or develop a strategic plan.

Might have been 3, 5 or even 10 years.  Longer if you are in city planning or such.  There are plenty of templates along with courses on how to develop a strategic plan.  Thousands of consultants, myself included who would love to be hired to help you with that effort.

From the technology side you tie the strategy (new technology, upgrades, replacements, yada yada) with a technology roadmap.  Think of it like major house renovation.  Parts of the house will stay, but most of it will be replaced. house

 

In this case servers, switches, storage and so forth.

 

 

stopWell, you should stop doing that – now!

 

 

 

Instead, focus on capabilities.  capabilities  A capabilities strategy will not only improve alignment with business, but ensure you are working with the right partners.

If your organization says they want to know more about their customers. What capabilities are need to learn more about your customers?

Improve flexibility of getting to existing internal data, plus adding multiple external data sources from purchased structured data to unstructured social and other data sources.

Stop – don’t start listing the types of databases, servers and application integration points you will need.  That is later, like knowing what size refrigerator or TV screen you want for the house.  What you need to know is how you like to entertain.

Capabilities again.  Integration, analytics (cognitive and predictive), data cleansing, visualization and so forth to create the capability to deliver the business value will be needed with in house or consulting services.

Yes, there will be a point where you have to start talking about databases and infrastructure, but by focusing on capabilities you can start with learning your customer’s habits from the internal buying habits for insights as a start to capabilities.  The second part of the roadmap will add another data source and then another, integrating into CRM and Order Management application processes.

This works as I said not only to the benefit of ensuring the technology strategy is exactly aligned with the business strategy, but provides you the language you want to hear from your partner consultants either directly or from their customer references.

executives   It also gives you the language to explain the strategy to your fellow executives.

It works equally with growth and profit focused strategies.

How you should create an IT Strategy

astrategy

As anyone who started his or her own business, like I did, or have been in a senior leadership position with a business, yep have that too to draw upon.  You were likely asked to add to or develop a strategic plan.

Might have been 3, 5 or even 10 years.  Longer if you are in city planning or such.  There are plenty of templates, courses on how to and consultants a plenty to help you with that effort.

 

From the technology side you tie the strategy (new technology, upgrades, replacements, yada yada) with a technology roadmap.  Think of it like a moving plan.

 

Well, you should stop doing that – now.    astop

 

Instead, focus on capabilities.  A capabilities strategy will not only improve alignment with business, but ensure you are working with the right partners.

If your organization says they want to know more about their customers. What capabilities are need to learn more about your customers?

 

aflexibleImprove flexibility of getting to existing internal data, plus adding multiple external data sources from purchased structured data to unstructured social and other data sources.

 

Stop – don’t start listing the types of databases, servers and application integration points you will need.  That is later, like knowing that the big furniture and appliances get loaded first into the trailer.  Right now we need to know we need a trailer and people who can carry stuff.

Capabilities again.  Integration, analytics (correlation and predictive), data cleansing, visualization and so forth to create the capability to deliver the business value will be needed with in house or consulting services.

Yes, there will be a point where you have to start talking about databases and infrastructure, but by focusing on capabilities you can start with learning your customer’s habits from the internal buying habits for insights as a start to capabilities.  The second part of the roadmap will add another data source and then another, integrating into CRM and Order Management application processes.

This works as I said not only to the benefit of ensuring the technology strategy is exactly aligned with the business strategy, but provides you the language you want to hear from your partner consultants either directly or from their customer references.

aalignment

It works equally with growth and profit focused strategies.

Stop spending most of your tech budget on administration

new perspectiveOne of the new perspectives I gained recently is that most business leaders rarely stop the merry-go-round of dealing with day to day running the business to see that there are only solutions to the problems they complain about daily.

 

              • Lack of the right information to make decisions at the time they need it
              • Applications require too many steps and/or lack the ability to quickly automate learned actions from decision data
              • Poor performance of new products/services or entry into new markets

 

feel the heat

Some change when they see the light, most when they feel the heat – and we mean it has to be hot.    

 

Gartner states that 68% of IT budgets on average will be used to maintain existing technology.  Not great news for technology vendors. This should be good news for IT, but in truth it is not good at all.

Let me explain.

Most of my personal budget (you know my money) is similarly tied up.  Most of my paycheck goes to maintain my existing or past lifestyle (apartment, maintenance on my car, kids college loans, cable TV and so on).  I estimate I spend 6% of my income on NEW INNOVATIVE experiences, aka vacations, entertainment and okay a lot of golf.

Much of the ‘maintenance’ payments free my time up to pursue new experiences or to gain new knowledge.  I do not have maintain my home (mow, weed, paint and so on), car or book my own travel – so I get to write, read, see new art at museums (a favorite), learn Tai Chi (not really, I play golf) and more. something new

In other words, I am not just maintaining my lifestyle with most of my paycheck I optimizing it so I can grow my personal experiences and profit in character building (dear me that was corny).

IT with that 68% is not gaining from this spend.  That 68% is not freeing up IT to leverage the 32% of the remaining budget and their staff to learn new technologies and experiment with them, thus impacting the top or bottom lines.  

It is barely reducing administration time.

Has it eliminated redundant tasks? No.

Ask these questions to challenge the value of the 68%.

  • Are most of the IT staff at your company doing different things if not most days at-least each month.
  • Working on a new project?
  • Building a new app?
  • Proposing a new end user capability?do something cool

Well?

Going back to my days as the guy in charge of IT you had to overcome the fear of failure first with your teams, but then you had to allocated funds and time to not just learn new technologies but PLAY with them.

So strategy cannot be what we say is most important that year buy truly acting on what you should be doing next.

six million dollar manYour business can be better, stronger, faster (I am just crazy corny writing today) than that 68% is providing your company.


          • How can we make decisions better at out company?
          • What can we do to find new markets?
          • Why can our consumers of the information technology take the next step in exploiting it?

 

So STOP.  Get your best internal people together (IT and Line of Business) and the most trusted external partner you have.  

Then spend a day figuring out what you should be doing next.

Then Nike the crap out of it.  now or laterThe measure will not just be your growth and profitability, but where your focus is each day.

Eating IT from the toes up

I lived for a time in Bethlehem, PA.  Unlike the Billy Joel song the big steel plant was in Bethlehem, not Allentown.  Allentown must have been easier to rhyme   In the middle of the town was this rusty hulk of buildings just sitting there for years.  It is now a casino – I’m not sure that is an improvement.

When I asked about what made Bethlehem Steel fail I got comments about greed, stupidity, arrogance and foreign competition.  The most complete story I heard was that mini-steel mills killed big bad Bethlehem Steel.  Not just foreign ones, but US based mini-mills.  The mini-mills started by making Rebar .  You know, the ribbed bars they put in to reinforce cement.

It is low margin product and from a steel perspective not high tech engineering.  Well, the story goes that the Beth Steel Execs ignored the mini-mills stealing their Rebar business as it was low margin.  The mini-mills were going to eat Beth Steel by starting with the low margin products – aka their toes.

In the end, the mini-mills built up their technical know how and capability and moved continuously up the margin chain of products until they helped (not completely responsible as the Beth Steel Execs were also greedy, stupid and arrogant) kill Beth Steel.

Many IT shops are seeing this same event happening to them.  Starts with BYOD, then soon BYOS (Bring Your Own Software or Solution) and will soon be UYODC (Use Your Own Data Center).  The netsmartphones are just vendors eating at IT’s toes by marketing and selling direct to the end user.

Now software vendors are in it with desktop/tablet and cloud based solutions that need little if any IT support.  This will soon evolve from single software products to suites to whole enterprise solutions faster then you can say – what happened.

And this is a good thing.  For unlike Beth Steel, IT will not be killed or go out of business, IT will evolve.  From a centralized separate group to an integrated function within a business organization made up of business analytics, data quality managers, service managers and hopefully still the need for a CIO who works on strategy and governance.

You have heard for years that IT needs to learn more about the business and become more business focused.  Those in IT who heeded those warnings/recommendations you will find homes where your combined talents are desperately needed in the business.

For those in IT who did not, well you will be like the steel workers in Bethlehem and Allentown.

Don’t believe me – well this article ‘The end of the IT department, was written more than a year ago by a smarter person than I.  It will happen, 5 years, 10, but not more than 20.

Blog – Do you know where your company IP is

Your sitting at your desk and you are looking through a great report or slide show provided by that smart as a whip employee in your department who always seems to be able to get things done and get you the information you need when you need it.

This is a highly confidential report/slide show that you would not want shared with the public, never mind your customers, suppliers or competition.

You are not aware that this report/slide show was created in Google Apps or stored in a Dropbox account sync which Ms. smart as a whip or that you are viewing it on Slideshare.

                       

 

 

 

 

Your employee did not use the company  –

  • MS-Office license or
  • servers for storing the file or
  • as such the file is not secured, password/firewall/ACL/ or
  • using an encryption process.

The file is just out there protected by the most highly security procedure in the world – ignorance.

 

 

 

This is not a bad thing.  Your employees are using the tools that the web and their mobile devices make available to them to do their job more productivily for them individually.

 

Here is the bad thing.

 

You need to be aware of this as an executive of your company so you know where your intellectial property (that precious company IP beyond trademarks) is being created, modified, shared and stored.

 

Here is the worst thing.

Your reaction being a quick policy statement banning this type of activity.  Stating that all work product by your knowledge workers MUST be done on company computers, using company software and stored on company servers.

 

Right – that will work.

 

How is that enforced exactly?  Just like a yield sign in New Jersey right?

 

The reaction should be –

  1. Find out how prevalent this is in your company
  2. Discuss at the executive level how this impacts your risk management of your IP
  3. How this impacts your current IT strategy (licensing, having your own data center, mobility)

 

You cannot stop this – so find a way to use it to your advantage.

Book Review – Execution, The Discipline of Getting Things Done

Author Larry Bossidy & Ram Charan

A quick read with each chapter giving you something useful to put into practice.  All too often leaders get frustrated that completion of activities is not occurring and they lash out at their teams.

 

 

 

 

I have been guilty of this action and thankfully my teams have been forthright enough to point out that I was acting like a crazed Captain Kirk asking to get 110% and to just make it so (ok that is Picard).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

–       Seven essentials of execution on page 57

  • While these are built upon in the rest of the book, reminding myself quickly brings back the concepts to actually use.

 

–       As a leader you have to show up on page 63

  • Showing up defined as being present, not losing your attention by focusing on your smartphone, tablet or SQUIRREL!
  • Focus on the person or people in front of you.

 

–       New EDS Beliefs on page 91

  • Changing not the values in your business, department or team – but changing the beliefs about those values.
  • First as part of your SWOT identify the old beliefs both internal and external, and then define the new.

–       Leadership Assessment Summary on page 151

  • A simple chart to evaluate the potential and current value of your team

–       Principle of simultaneity on page 232

  • During planning session and budget development change from doing separately and start with a gathering all business leaders to set the foundation for simultaneously agreeing to direction, plans and budget allocations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I review this book once a month to refocus my efforts when working with teams.  It offers simple reminders on focusing on priorities and facilitating the same with your teams.

Is planning poor or planning not desired any longer due to due to ready availability of everything

20 years ago most of us had to have a weekly shopping trip to get groceries as the stores where not open 24 hours, 7 days a week.

 

 

 

20 years ago we had to plan a trip to the bank, as ATM’s could perform minimum transactions and most did not trust them for deposits.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

20 years ago if you needed new clothes, shoes, books and so on – you had to schedule a trip to those stores around those stores limited hours.

The impact on the lack of ready availability requiring planning on other activities – throwing a party, performing some home improvement, and doing a job search.

My thought that has entered my head and bounced around is — the fact that you needed to plan in your daily lives back 20 years ago had an impact on how your were able to plan and execute in your work life?  Leading to the thought that the fact you do not need to plan as much in your daily life due to readily available almost everything impacted our culture, our lives in a way that has reduced our planning ability and as such is affecting business planning.

Planning definition – http://www.opm.gov/perform/plan.asp

Is this somewhat generational with Y Gens taking their outspoken, bold thinking, sense of self-worth and combining that with the culture of not needing to plan?

Will the Z Gens who multi-task at a level that makes Y, never mind X Gens heads spin be productive, but only in environments that are reactive, not proactive planning focused organizations?

The impact on supplier companies is staggering when you consider that the generations coming into power in business organizations expect that all of their suppliers are readily able to deliver on the a varying level of demand within hours, perhaps days, but definitely unacceptable is weeks or months.

How will projects of various lengths be impacted?

Will all projects have to be short term as the ability to plan multiple stages over several months and years become almost impossible for the culture to conceive?

Will poor planning continue to be the bain of projects ?

We are talking about the next step for NASA is Mars.   It was in 1963 that the President issued that directive that the USA be the first to the moon.  6 years later, after what could have been the end of his second term it happened.  I wonder how the current evolving culture would accomplish a task that took 6 years to plan and execute.

 

 

 

I see it today in businesses that are no longer talking 5 or 7-year strategies, but 2 and 3-year strategic plans.  See this article in the Wall Street Journal stating that the downturn changed the view of how we run our business.  Is it just the down turn or the culture too?

 

Is this all just are business world changing so rapidly?

I wonder, how much an impact that the lack of the need to plan much of our daily lives has on the lack of the ability / desire to plan longer term for our business lives.

I wonder if this is a bad thing.  My education says it is, but my gut says it is part of our evolution.