How does a business owner create an information technology strategic plan? What’s included to make it useful to scale-up? And, how do you make sure it helps with short-term plans?
Owners may be concerned that a strategic technology plan is too dry. They want something real and practical. The plan is about putting meat on the bone and turning a vision into reality. The business vision is the driver, and tech is a key part of turning that into a reality.
In this three-part series, we take an in-depth look at technology plans for scale-ups. We looked at “Technology Plan: 6 Reasons Why Scale-Ups Need One” in Part-One. Part-Two looks at putting a technology plan together. In the final part we look at turning that into a roadmap to make it happen.
Looking for an in-depth guide on Strategic Planning? Check out Strategic Planning: An Essential Guide to More Success. An in-depth article on strategic planning to help you create a more successful business future. It’s a step-by-step guide from theory to action.
Business and technology are so closely connected that plans must fit like a hand in glove. The business plan often relies on tech. In some cases, disruptive tech is foundational. Therefore, these plans extend the business strategy to show the digital pathway.
Any plan starts with where you are now, where you want to be and how to get there. Then you can fill in the detail about resources, timescales and milestones. Although it’s good to think about the long-term, say five years out, technology is changing so fast that it’s best to keep that high-level. The focus of a technology strategic plan is on the next couple of years. So, what should it include?
#1 Business goals and strategy
If possible, I find it best to start with the business goals and strategy. After all the technology plan is all about delivering against these goals. If these are not known, you can start with why the business wants to use technology. In this way you may be able to identify a few statements that tie back to core business drivers such as increased turnover, margin, market share or new markets. You’re looking to get agreement and clarity about why technology is important for future success.
#2 Mission and Vision
Now you’ve looked at the big picture of where the business is going, the next step is to look at the big picture for technology. This is a key step because it helps you see how tech fits into the context of the whole business. Many businesses (small and big) fall into the trap of solving individual problems without understanding that context. Failing to map solutions to the wider context results in disjointed and costly outcomes. Throwing tech together without thinking about the bigger picture can ruin a business.
Next, you want to work out where you are, where you’re going and describe the gap. Again, this needs to be in the context of the business. The earlier steps force you to think about the longer-term plans for the business and how technology will help. Having a more complete view helps to prioritise what’s important for the business.
This is where you get into the specifics. You need to be thorough, otherwise you’ll miss the big picture and opportunities. Look at each area of the business: Work through each of the core and supporting activities. You might look for gaps around people such as training, process or technology. This avoids looking to solve a problem without a full understanding of what’s involved.
Although not strictly part of a strategic technology plan, you may want to take this opportunity to review the gaps and put them into short, medium and long-term buckets. You can then use that to define your short, medium and long-term goals and objectives. You may find that priorities shift in time, so it’s good to manage these gaps in a backlog where you can rank them.
#5 Goals and objectives
Now you know where you are, where you’re going and have a prioritised list of gaps, it’s time to create a few goals and objectives. This will help you with communication and resource planning. Using the information, you’ve gathered so far, you’ll be able to set short, medium and long-term goals.
Depending on the nature of the plan, you might want to measure business improvements. Metrics will vary from business to business. For example, you might measure adoption, customer satisfaction, increased volumes, speed, accuracy or savings. The key is choosing a metric that helps you drive toward your business goals.
Now you know what you’re up against, have a clear idea of the deliverables and timescales, it’s time to plan the resources. This might be part of growing internal capabilities, using external resources or a mix. Making it happen may require other products or services. This starts the budgeting process, so that you know what’s needed to make this a success.
Creating a strategic plan for technology in a business is exciting, because it’s translating the business goals into action. Rather than a dry document, this is all about creating a vision for how technology will help drive the business toward success. The business strategy should be at the heart of a technology plan. Its goals should be directly linked to the business goals. Its measures directly linked to business success. In this way the technology is aligned with the business, and it’s through this alignment, the business will benefit the most.
If you’d like to explore the ideas in this article further or need help and advice, please contact Rogan at firstname.lastname@example.org – to arrange an informal chat.
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