The changing role of an IT department
Over the last few years, company IT departments have transitioned from traditional IT service delivery – focused on supporting other departments and administering their systems – to a more strategic role – setting new trends, leading innovation and business change.
As a result, organisations now have a much greater dependence on their IT departments to deliver business goals. Therefore, increasingly, a CIO and an IT department’s role is aligning technology projects with their organisation’s strategy.
Getting greater business value from IT investments
For the business to get more benefits from an IT department’s projects, the IT department’s strategy needs to be aligned with the overall company strategy. So how do you align your IT strategy to the business one?
Aligning IT and business strategies
As the CIO.com (1) suggests, there are two approaches to aligning the overall company and technology department strategies.
The first one is to get independent advice from a technology partner. We’ll come back to this approach further in the article.
The second one, as the CIO.com suggests, is to consider the following six points:
- Early engagement of IT leaders in strategic direction of the business
- Proper understanding of business needs and the reasoning behind them by the IT team
- Interdependence of IT and business and a free flow of ideas (both ways)
- Governance in place
- Flexibility of business alignment
- Clarity of each IT team member’s strategic role
Aligning the IT strategy with the overall business one is crucial. But what if your organisation does not have an IT strategy yet?
Creating an IT strategy from scratch
If you need to create your IT strategy from point zero, the best place to start is still with the overall business strategy. It’s a good idea to form an IT strategy group or board made up of your IT department’s leaders, and together analyse your company’s strategic objectives seeing how and where IT could add value.
If you’re having difficulties with this task, consider getting independent advice from a technology partner. For example, Future Processing offer help with creating an IT strategy and aligning it with the overall business strategy in the form of IT strategy workshops dedicated to senior IT leaders. During such workshops, together with Business Analysis consultants you’ll:
- analyse your current business situation with its pain points, opportunities and needs
- generate some possible improvements to key processes
- get some IT recommendations to help you achieve your organisation’s business goals
- get recommendations for technology solutions (existing or to be developed), in line with your requirements and budget
- get access to consultant know-how, expertise and best practices
The outcome of the IT strategy workshops will be recommendations of possible solutions tailored to your company along with a high-level strategy on how to deliver them.
When your IT strategy is drafted, get feedback from other business leaders to ensure the strategy will meet the high-level business objectives. After this validation, check the strategy with your broader IT team – to get both their input, and their buy in.
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Benefits of creating an IT strategy with a technology consultancy company
Why consider working out an IT strategy with a technology company? Technology consultancy companies typically have a whole host of technology skills beyond IT strategy planning. Apart from consultancy, good companies will also offer software development, quality assurance, system and infrastructure support and maintenance, as well as competencies in Security, DevOps, Data, Cloud and a variety of technologies/programming languages.
Getting a software and technology consultancy to help out with your strategy brings a double benefit. First, they will help with your strategy. Second, they will execute its software part. Why is good to have these two services under one roof?
With knowledge of the reasoning and the thought processes behind the strategy and its desired software outputs, the end result of development work should be software which really meets the strategic goals of your business. In fact, even if you’ve done your IT strategy on your own/ with a different consultant, it is still worth sharing your high-level goals with your software development team. Why? Because by telling them WHY you’re doing something, they will be able to suggest better solutions to particular problems, tell you if you’re making mistakes, and spot improvements which can potentially save you money. Plus, a team member who understands the why is less likely to feel like a cog in a machine and is therefore less likely to leave – and better retention of talent means smaller loss of knowledge and ultimately more money in your pocket.
Creating an IT strategy with a technology partner is worth a think. After working out the strategy (e.g. through an IT strategy workshop), your partner will be able to help you implement the strategy immediately though coding your software, its testing and maintenance. When choosing a technology partner, it’s best to go for a company who will make all effort necessary to engage themselves in your project. This means more seamless work and is just a perfect example of aligning your IT with your business.