Compared to anytime in the past
business leadership today is faced with a significant increase in the amount of IT decisions to be made. If it was a simple matter of “more” that would be okay, but it is more complicated than that. The last 5 years has brought about a number of different elements to consider as part of your IT planning:

  1. Technology is changing faster than ever before – i.e. 18 month cycles as opposed to 2-3 years.
  2. Additional “systems” to consider – most notably those connected to social media and mobile.
  3. Overall costs have decreased at a rapid rate, especially with hardware, infrastructure and connectivity.
  4. A new generation is being employed that has a higher level of technology aptitude and skill – hence higher demands in the work place.
  5. New ways of buying and using (licenses) technology – i.e. xaaS (x as a Service) is a solid option.
  6. “Social Everything” is now a part of the business world.

Changing IT Priorities

So, not only are there way more decisions to be made, the decisions to be made are more complicated and interdependent at the very core. Senior management used to be able to turn to the CIO and say “What is next or make sure it is in the next budget” but, those days are gone.

IT management plans are now a crucial part of business planning and the IT plan can no longer be a technological discussion and effort. In most instances when the departure point for an information technology plan is technological, it immediately alienates most of the business stakeholders who are not able to, and sometimes don’t want to, keep up with all the “techno speak” and IT acronyms. The business needs should clearly lead the discussion and deal with:

  • Business objectives
  • Business processes
  • Infrastructure
  • Service provision
  • Business culture
  • Financial implications

When considering the best priorities for new IT projects the following should be considered:

IT Strategic Plan

– Start with a plan that rolls through at least the next 3 business quarters in detail and allow for more conceptual items passed that point. Just as the business changes to match the market and customer needs and changes so should the IT planning change.

Risks

– Clearly identify what current and future business risk are most prevalent and have the highest chance impacting the business outcomes. The technology risks should be evaluated in the same way as they should be connected to the very same business outcomes. For example, systems that are at end of life or have become inflexible will introduce business risk. Be sure to cover the risk of “doing nothing”.

Customers and business partners

– As mentioned above technology is changing at a rapid rate and also becoming more complex. When customers make demands that affect your business and competitive profile prioritize accordingly. The same with business partners who are looking for better ways to work together and improve services and efficiencies.

Costs

– Also mentioned above is the fact that technology is just cheaper today. This means that the base spend plus x% has become an expensive way to manage technology. Spend wisely by evaluating what cost benefits are to be had by adding, deleting or making changes (existing line items) to the technology spend. Remember the potential future costs of “doing nothing”.

Opportunities

– A critical look at opportunities either competitively or from an innovative standpoint will provide a new dimension when prioritizing technology projects. Being first to offer an easier more efficient way of providing products and services or doing business with partners will have solid business outcomes.

Employees

– The workforce is becoming increasingly knowledgeable and capable in not only using technology but knowing what will work better and help them get the job done. Subject Matter Experts (SME’s) can now provide vital information and input into the future planning for IT projects.

An IT management plan that incorporates a prioritization matrix will not only drive technology results but, will also positively affect business outcomes.

As always, I welcome your comments and questions about IT planning and IT project management.