“Strategic IT” What is that? I Have a Strategy, I Think…

Over the past couple of years our technologists have been spending much of their time reading blogs around technology and studying release notes from Apple, Amazon, SAP, Mulesoft, and other technology giants. This could fill our entire week keeping up the amazing capabilities and innovations in Cloud, Analytics, the Internet of things (IoT), machine learning, etc. that every organization can adopt to save money and improve their mission effectiveness.

Then we meet with our clients and talk about their plans for leveraging these new capabilities. We usually hear they don’t have the time or resources to use these new capabilities. We also hear it’s not on their strategic plan or even worse, they don’t have a plan. How do you prioritize without a plan? When did you last update the plan? Are you living your plan? How fluid is the plan? Most people can’t really answer these questions.

From our perspective, if you don’t have a living strategic plan for technology that is fiscally informed, then you are not just behind, you are wasting the little money you do have to enable your mission. The importance of making informed decisions around IT spend and direction should be every IT leader’s top objective.

So Where Do You Go From Here

We look at this as a simple four-step attack. To make this even easier, you don’t have to perform a comprehensive assessment to start. We can start by focusing on a specific domain such as Information Management. Frequently, we work with a key department that needs to be digitally transformed and updated.

Just like everything we do at TeraThink, we will apply our agile principles to this process. This allows us to attack this area by area, piece by piece, mission by mission, or whatever your greatest areas of priority lie. But the important part is that we get a plan on paper and to start getting your organization to live the plan.

Understand Your Current Landscape

This is sometimes the hardest step for many people. In order to get a handle on the current environment, TeraThink looks at three areas. First, we get a view of the infrastructure, applications, tools, etc. Then, we try to understand all the attributes including version, users, cost, support needs, stability, and value (this one is the hardest one to put a finger on). This is your “As-Is” picture for technology.

Next, we take a look at your mission. Not your IT shop’s mission, but your organization’s mission. Not only is it important to understand that you are paying $1 million dollars a year, but what missions are your organization supporting for that $1 million? We have seen many times that there are applications in which the cost outweighs the value for which it supports.

For example, a reporting solution that supports a low value mission area with very few active users. Yet, they are in the top 15th percentile of cost. This is where “value” is formulated. It’s important that you remove the emotion from “value” as that can make the assessment hard. No one likes calling their baby (that project you championed/or built) ugly, but this is where you need to show some tough love.

Finally, organizations always leave out their IT processes. We like to look at this as, “How do you stop the bleeding?” Fix your processes to ensure that your investments in the future are made in the right areas and that you don’t continue to spend in areas that add low value. There also is a big change management effort to get this off the ground. Understanding your current process will identify what you may need to change.

What is Your Strategy?

Where do you want to go?  What needs to change?

As technologists, we find this to be on the most exciting parts of this process, for both us and our clients. This is where you get to dream. This is where you take a hard look at your mission. Let’s also be honest, this is an opportunity to think about new toys! But this is also where some hard decisions need to made. The goal here is to take a look at your wants and needs list, with your current application inventory, and define your plan.  Do we:

  • Move to the cloud?
  • Upgrade this application?
  • Sunset this application?
  • Move to a new software set?
  • Outsource this business function?

These are all natural questions that need answers. We bring in all the industry and solutions experts and make informed decisions. One important thing to remember in this process is that nothing is the final decision. This is a time to dictate direction and strategy. You will continue to live this process and adjust as time goes on, but you do have to put a line in the sand.

This is also where you define changes to your governance processes. These processes are a key to the success going forward. Not updating your processes will make this exercise less effective and effectively useless as IT continues to change so rapidly.

Transform Your Portfolio

After we define the to-be state, the next step is to create your road map. We take the identified changes and apply the proper level of order and priority. We always like to start with easy things, the “Low-Hanging Fruit.” What systems are easy to sunset, re-negotiate licenses, etc.?   This can free up the resources necessary to fund this project/process. We haven’t seen an organization yet that doesn’t have a lot of waste to recover.

We go back to the example of the reporting application that costs $1 million and serves no purpose. Why not use that money to fund a cloud migration that can save you $250K annually, and use that $250K to do the next thing? You can justify this project that as self-funded, and make movements quickly.

To take on a project like this, depending on the size of your organization, isn’t a 2 year project. Typically, 1-2 months is enough to get this process started.   The important thing to remember is that this is a fluid plan. Don’t print it out. Keep it living. Revisit it more than once a year at an offsite. Continually update and review the plan. Make it part of the blood of your organization so that at all levels, IT is viewed as as an enabler, not a mission in its own sense.

Start Today

Conducting an initial assessment is a low risk, high reward, activity that can help an organization prioritize future focus. TeraThink can help you conduct an assessment and build your Strategy Definition for you. We possess a wide range of expertise across many software and solution platforms. As a result, our clients rely on us to define and solve their important business problems. We help them serve their mission enable their mission more effectively. Our clients appreciate our willingness to perform short-term projects with a specific goal, allowing for better defined outcomes at every stage of the process..

Intrigued by where we are going in the Strategic IT space? If you would like to learn more, reach out to start the conversation. We are here to help move your organization into the future.

[Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on the blog of Dominion Consulting. On November 1, 2017, Dominion Consulting merged with TeraThink and are now operating jointly as TeraThink. All blog posts migrated from the Dominion Consulting website have been updated to refer to ourselves as TeraThink.]

1 Comment

  1. Sahil Rajan on June 5, 2017 at 11:42 am

    Failing to plan is planning to fail