Managing IT Strategy in a Non-Technical Organization, Part 3

Part 3: Finalizing Your IT Strategy

Managing IT Strategy in Non-Technical Organizations

Managing IT Strategy in Non-Technical Organizations, Part 2:

  • Introduction
  • Identifying Essential IT Components
  • Perform a Gap Analysis
  • Compose the IT Strategy Proposal
    • Describe the Current Situation
    • Create a Roll-Out Plan
    • Identify Human Resource Requirements
    • Describe How the IT Strategy Supports the Business Strategy
  • Conclusion

Introduction

If you’ve done all the work outlined in part 1 and part 2 of this series, then you should have a very good understanding of your company’s situation and your proposed IT Strategy by this point. Here in part 3, I’m going to provide a few final pieces of work, and then we’re going to go over proposing the IT new strategy.

Now, in the previous parts I’ve been using the example of a generic medium-sized company that has identified cloud computing as a likely solution to many of their infrastructural challenges. In this last part, however, I’m going to change things up so that I can expand a bit and tackle this final topic from a wider perspective.

The example company I’m going to use is as follows:

The Business:

This is a U.S.-based medium-sized import/export company with primary suppliers that are based overseas. The company also maintains a local retail presence.  The business has recently experienced in influx of capital which is going to allow rapid expansion – the company is expected to double in size over the next four years.

The Current State of IT:

The current IT infrastructure is approaching obsolescence. It currently supports the business’s total operations, including Internet orders, retail store operations, supplier orders, supplier communications, and internal operations.

Some areas of need that we’ve identified are as follows:

  • Employees need to be able to store and share documents securely
  • A reliable file backup and recovery system needs to be implemented
  • A universal communications platform should be explored

The IT Strategy:

The basic IT Strategy that we’re seeking to implement in this example is: “To implement and maintain a secure and reliable IT infrastructure that can scale and adapt to the ever-changing needs of the expanding company.”

Although your unique situation may vary significantly from this example, my aspiration is that the principles and ideas that I present in this article can be adapted and applied to your needs.

Identifying Essential IT Components

The first thing that we need to do is to identify the essential IT components necessary to facilitate the IT Strategy. I enumerated a few of them above, but for this step we’re going to create a document that will be a bit more comprehensive.

This document should include a specific statement of the essential IT components, and the details of the functionality that the components provides.

For example:

  1. Universally accessible, cloud-based storage. This describes a storage infrastructure that can be accessed from any internet-connected device, that has built-in redundancy and scalability, and provides self-service for immediate file restore.
  2. A unified communications strategy. The firm’s current communications system exist as disparate, location-dependent systems. A unified communications would utilize a one comprehensive solution to address telephony, and another solution to address email, chat, and internet-based video-conferencing.
  3. Real-time backup and self-restore. Relying on daily backups ensures a significant loss of time, effort, and morale if ever needed. A real-time backup and self-restore service, specifically the use of shadow copies, would allow users to restore files as soon as they realized there was a problem, and to restore to a very recent save point. This would significantly reduce the data loss associated with file-restore.

Your list will likely be much longer and more exhaustive, but hopefully this example demonstrates the type of detail that you’ll want to provide in this document.

Perform a Gap Analysis

Now that you understand the specific IT needs of your company, the next step is to perform a Gap Analysis.

A Gap Analysis will help you understand where your infrastructure is now, your vision for where it needs to be going forward, and provide a general idea of how you plan to get there.

For the Gap Analysis, I recommend opening up your favorite spreadsheet application and creating a matrix similar to the example below:

Component Where we Are Where we want to be How to get there
Storage A server at each office but no centralized storage space A centralized, universally accessible storage space Setup a cloud-based storage solution that can be accessed by any location AND by sales-staff on-the-go
Unified Communications Each location has a local phone system, email is limited to 100 users, internet communication is ad hoc A consistent communications platform for phone and another for email and another for internet Install communication suites:

  • Phone
  • Email (w/ spam filtering), Video, and Chat
Real time Backup and Restore Backup is once-a-day and lost files are unrecoverable to the backup point Users can self-restore lost documents, and documents are “continuously”, automatically backed up Use a shadow-copy provider and have users access files from a site-central or company-central location

Now, the work that you did in part 1 may have provided you with an idea of the technology that you need and specific vendors or products that you can utilize. If that’s the case, I recommend including those elements in the ‘How to get there’ column.

Compose the IT Strategy Proposal

Now that all of the thought exercises, research, and documenting has been completed, we’re ready to begin composing the the IT Strategy Proposal.

I’m going to recommend composing the proposal in four parts:

  1. A description of the current state of IT, including the reason for the new IT Strategy
  2. A roll-out plan for the new IT Strategy
  3. An identification of additional Human Resource requirements (if applicable)
  4. A description of how the new IT Strategy supports the Business Strategy

Describe the Current Situation

The purpose of this section is to explain why the new IT Strategy is necessary in order to address the future business needs of the company.

A quick-and-dirty way to compose this section would be to summarize your Gap Analysis in narrative form. You probably don’t need to go into too much detail at this point, but after reading this section, the reader should have a clear understanding of your intentions and why they’re in the best interest of the company.

I recommend including the following three sub-sections, which tie to three of the columns of the Gap Analysis:

  1. Where we are:
    1. The current hardware, how it’s being used, and why it’s insufficient (if applicable)
    2. The current software, how it’s being used, and why it’s insufficient (if applicable)
  2. Where we want to be: A vision of how the IT Strategy will facilitate and support the Business Strategy
  3. How to get there: An overview of the specific changes that you are proposing

Create a Roll-Out Plan

Your roll-out plan should be a detailed three- to five-year plan of how you intend to implement the changes that your IT Strategy proposal calls for. How long the roll-out will take and the level of detail that you provide will largely depend on the expectations and requirements of your organization and the preferences your business leaders.

A basic roll-out plan should include individual tasks, the essential IT component that the task is associated with, and an estimate of how long the task may take.

A basic example, with very rough time estimates is shown below:

Time Frame Business Need Task
0.5 Years Unified Communications Determine a Unified Communications vendor
1 year Real time Backup and Restore Plan and configure local OS-included shadow copy functionality
1 year Unified Communications Negotiate for a unified email, chat and video-conferencing provider
1.5 Years Storage Determine a cloud storage provider
1.5 Years Storage Negotiate a data migration strategy to relocate site-local data to the cloud and ensure access as appropriate
1.5 Years Unified Communications Roll out unified email, chat and video-conferencing provider
1.5 Years Unified Communications Negotiate unified telephony communications provider and plan installation
2 Years Storage Migrate the data to the cloud and configure redirects
2 Years Unified Communications Install new telephony system
2 Years Real time Backup and Restore Configure real-time backup and restore in cloud storage system
2.5 Years Storage Sell old storage equipment and destroy the old hard drives
2.5 Years Unified Communications Retire old telephony system, selling the associated equipment
2.5 Years Real time Backup and Restore Review and complete project
3 Years Storage Review and complete project
3 Years Unified Communications Review and complete project

Identify Human Resource Requirements

There’s a strong possibility that your new IT Strategy will include additional Human Resource requirements. This can be in the form of additional staff, or in new training for existing staff.

The Human Resource requirements document should describe your HR needs and tie those needs directly to an essential IT component.

You can do this in narrative or matrix format. I generally find the matrix format to be the easiest and simplest way to convey this type of information. An example of this is shown below:

Component Need Internal/External
Storage Learn the complexities and functionality of the new cloud storage solution Internal – training for existing IT personnel
Unified Communications Be able to work full time in installing and supporting the new communications infrastructure External – new staff: Network Engineer
Real time Backup and Restore Internal IT personnel should know how to implement this. Additional training may be needed when implementing the features in the cloud storage environment Internal – training for existing IT personnel

Describe How the IT Strategy Supports the Business Strategy

In the first section of the proposal you outlined a vision of how the IT Strategy will facilitate and support the Business Strategy.

In this section, you go into greater detail, using persuasive writing, to illustrate how your IT Strategy Proposal will directly contribute to the support of the Business Strategy.

There are several ways that you can do this, and the details will depend on your unique situation. However, your ultimate objective should be to reassert the essential IT components, and directly tie the outcomes of those components to the needs of the Business Strategy.

Once this section is finished, your proposal is complete and ready to be submitted, or presented, to your business leaders.

Conclusion

As stated in the beginning of  part 1, this guide is not meant to be specific. Instead, it is meant to be a general overview of business principles and ideas that you can use to develop and finalize a meaningful and effective IT Strategy. I hope that you’ve found this guide informative and useful. If I’ve overlooked anything, or you have any additional thoughts to share, please feel free to leave a comment below or shoot me a message.

Otherwise, I wish you luck and success in your IT Leadership endeavors.

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