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Today’s business IT landscape provides unparalleled opportunity for achievement, but it can also look like an increasingly complex landscape to navigate. As your business seeks to modernise, scale, and continue succeeding, an ad hoc approach to technology investment is a dangerous approach that can strongly impede performance.

A well-crafted IT strategy is the ideal defence, providing clarity, direction, and oversight to organisations as they navigate an ever-evolving IT landscape.

Why is an IT strategy so important?

Having an IT strategy in place that’s both cohesive and comprehensive is vital because modern businesses simply cannot succeed without information technology, and any component as significant to a business as IT must be managed in a strategic way.

Without an IT strategy, businesses may implement sporadic and disconnected IT capabilities that do not work in harmony and limit a business’s ability to function and succeed at scale.

What is an IT strategy?

An IT strategy is the plan that lays out how an organisation will implement and leverage technology to meet its strategic goals and objectives, including both the goals within IT departments and broader business goals. It’s usually developed as part of a larger business strategy, though these documents may be developed and maintained separately as well.

IT strategy is typically laid out in a document called an IT strategic plan. This document describes what an organization has invested in and plans to invest in regarding technology, as well as the reasons or ways that various IT elements support broader organisational needs.

Benefits of a comprehensive IT strategy

Developing a comprehensive plan for your organisation’s IT strategy delivers numerous benefits. This is true whether you develop your IT strategy independently or work with IT consulting or IT professional services.

Enables digital transformation

Digital transformation is mission-critical for businesses looking to reimagine existing processes and leverage new, digitally native capabilities. But the process is far from simple and entering into it with no strategy in place is misguided at best.

IT is the fuel for business growth

In the modern business landscape, improved IT capabilities are one extremely important catalyst for business growth. These capabilities come about via new applications and more powerful computing capability. Utilising these strategically, not haphazardly, is the key to unlocking growth.

Creates sustainable value

IT is an expensive component for every business, and the available solutions evolve almost daily. Take any potential new IT investment: it’s a given that your organisation will spend on IT, but far less certain that you’ll gain the needed value and sustain that value over time.

An IT strategy helps rein in chaotic spending that may or may not generate value, guiding organistaions toward better principles for selecting IT upgrades that create ongoing, sustainable value and avoiding those that will not.

Identifies risks and improves security

As businesses become increasingly reliant on technology (including Cloud technologies like IaaS), their risks and exposures change. Where a system going down may have been a problem in need of fixing in decades past, today it could approach crisis level.

Part of any comprehensive IT strategy is identifying IT-related organisational risks. By identifying these risks and, where necessary, taking action to mitigate them, organisations improve their IT security in ways not possible without a cohesive IT strategy.

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Does every company need an IT strategy?

Yes. Or, perhaps better stated, every company already has an IT strategy. The question is whether that strategy is intentional and well-designed or whether it’s simply a haphazard amalgamation of the policies and governance surrounding each piece of IT infrastructure.

Still, every company that wants to thrive needs the former, an intentional and well-designed IT strategy.

Why? Because digital transformation — also no longer optional — requires such a strategy. With a strategy in place, organisations can understand their IT estate and map out its trajectory as they seek to improve productivity, focus the customer experience, and even create new ways of generating value.

Elements of a well-designed IT strategy

The elements of a well-designed IT strategy will vary depending on your organisational structure, business models, and digital maturity, among dozens of other factors. It’s also common to work with outside IT consulting or IT professional services partners, who can provide an objective, unbiased assessment that sidesteps internal politics.

While your exact workflow will be unique to your business, it will likely contain at least these elements.

Craft a vision and mission

First up is setting the biggest-picture framework using vision and mission statements. These often begin with the organisation’s broader vision and mission statements but refine them to fit the context of IT strategy.

Design a future roadmap

Next is understanding where your organisation needs to go to achieve that mission and vision and building out a roadmap to get there.

Inventory current IT landscape

Part of designing that roadmap is categorizing where your organisation stands at present, so assessing the current state of your IT positions is an integral element.

Align across the business

IT no longer exists in isolation or only to serve other departments and divisions within a company. Today, IT is deeply intertwined throughout the organisation, so a well-designed IT strategy takes into account the needs and opportunities across the business. Any strategic changes in IT must support or otherwise account for the various functions and needs that IT currently meets.

Gap analysis

With both the future roadmap and the current inventory complete, perform a gap analysis to identify what’s missing between now and where your IT strategy projects you to go.

Competitive analysis

Your business does not have as its chief goal to exist in a sea of sameness; you want your business to exceed and excel. An IT-oriented competitive analysis identifies what areas you lead the competition as well as potential advantages IT can deliver on either the tactical or strategic level.

Goals (tactical and strategic)

An IT strategy should get specific about what it seeks to accomplish, both in the near term (day to day) and down the road (strategic vision). These strategic goals should include both what your internal teams will execute as well as what they won’t execute.

IT operating model and infrastructure

Will your business maintain all IT operations internally, or will a third-party vendor operate elements for you? For example, your IT strategy should denote whether you’ll work with a partner for IT managed services or IT infrastructure management.

Another aspect of operating model that your IT strategy should cover is infrastructure; specifically, the question of Cloud. With the increasing reliance on PaaS and IaaS, hybrid Cloud in IT strategy plays an increasingly valuable role. Current and future Cloud strategies should be noted in the strategy document.

Monitoring and assessment

Last, your IT strategy should include information on how the organisation or its partners will monitor adherence to and progress through the strategy. An unmonitored and unassessed strategy is a strategy primed for failure, so note within the strategy itself who will do the monitoring and what systems or tools they will use to do it.

IT strategy vs. business strategy

In most businesses the IT strategy should flow out of the larger business strategy. Sometimes these two documents are developed and maintained as one, while often they follow separate development processes.

Traditional vs Agile approach to IT strategy

In a traditional IT strategy approach, an organisation convenes a team (which may include external consultants) for formulating a long-term (three to five year) IT strategy. The process is lengthy and detailed, with up to six months devoted to discovery alone. The roadmap developed is detailed but relatively inflexible, and the IT strategy team disbands once this roadmap is approved.

Agile takes a much more flexible approach, designing the same kind of three-year plan but perhaps with less detail toward the end of the roadmap. Agile IT strategy teams don’t disband after creating the roadmap, though: they meet at set intervals (often quarterly) to evaluate, adjust, and realign. This is the crucial difference between the two approaches.

How Canon Business Services can help you with your IT strategy

Canon Business Services ANZ provides top-quality services to many of the largest and most successful companies throughout Australia and New Zealand. We offer the Cloud services you need to act on your IT strategy, including private Cloud, Azure Public Cloud, and Hybrid Cloud. And more importantly, we can provide the big-picture vision necessary to develop a cohesive IT strategy via our IT consulting services.

Our IT consulting services assist organisations with IT strategy formation and much more, and numerous other service arms (including IT professional services, Managed IT Services, and Business Process Automation combine to ensure successful execution of that strategy.

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