CIOs and CTOs wear a lot of hats in their organization, but one of the most important responsibilities they have is coming up with a good IT strategy. This is easier said than done, and there are a lot of great companies who hire great technology leaders but fail to come up with a good IT strategy.
While there are different ways to come up with a sound IT plan, good strategies often have similar qualities. And these are: clarity, focus, and knowing what NOT to do.
A good IT strategy needs to be clear and direct to the point. Vagueness simply does not have a place in any strategy because it will serve to confuse everyone when it is time to make business decisions. For instance, increasing profit might sound like a good strategy, but it is actually very vague and too general. Your IT team might do things that are harmful in the long run, such as not developing new solutions that would involve money, might settle for a more affordable but mediocre solution, or might use pirated software. Your strategy must be clear in how IT can help the business. In this instance, a better IT strategy would be to increase profits by coming up with solutions that would improve efficiency and operations.
A good IT strategy should come after priority setting. Knowing what the most important things are within the business will help IT see what needs to be done first and what needs to be done fast. Your team will not be bothered by conflicts and tradeoffs. They will not be distracted. Focus is very important with any IT strategy because no IT team in the world can do everything. You neither have the time nor the money to do all things you want to do. Making sure that your IT strategy is focused will result in a plan that is very clear in how you are going to spend resources to achieve key objectives.
Knowing when to say no.
Having a clear and focused IT strategy will help you and your team know which investments to say no to, and which of your projects are not going to contribute to achieving your goals. For instance, if your strategy calls for an integrated IT system, then you might want to avoid standalone solutions that do not integrate well with your system.
Anything that does not appear to contribute to the achievement of your IT goals should immediately be thrown out.
As a good CIO or CTO with a good IT strategy, you should be able to help your employees, as well as your management and IT teams say no to solutions and investments that would not contribute anything towards your business goals.
Different companies might have different ideas of what their IT strategies should look like, but a great IT strategy should be clear, focused, and have clear parameters on what not to do. If you review your IT strategy and it is missing one of these key characteristics, then it might be a good indicator that you should go back to the drawing board.
Photo courtesy of Stefan Erschwendner (Flickr).