Service - IT Strategy review

“I really think we need an IT strategy…” The vast majority of modern businesses depend critically on their computing and communications systems. It therefore follows that to maximise the benefits of these information systems on the one hand, and to avoid being hampered or even weakened by major shortcomings in those same systems on the other, having a viable, comprehensive and up-to-date IT strategy is not a luxury — it’s a necessity.

But the information systems a business employs are a means to an end, not an end in themselves, therefore any IT strategy needs to be closely integrated with the wider business strategy if it is to be fully effective. There are thousands of information technologies addressing thousands of business issues, thus IT solutions need to be specified and implemented with great care if costly and damaging mistakes are to be avoided. The objective of an IT strategy is to ensure that you know what the right tools for your business are, and to successfully plan their initial implementation and/or enhancement over time.

Why might I need an IT strategy, or to review the one I already have?

Information systems often evolve over a long period of time without any particular plan or direction. Solutions may be old and outdated, or may have been implemented to address pressing business issues, or were inherited from other businesses. Any of these circumstances can lead to:

  • systems which are incompatible with each other, often with an inconsistent look and feel, and which are incapable of being integrated easily
  • some areas of the business are inadequately supported, while others may be served by two or more systems with overlapping functionality, leading to confusion and a waste of resources
  • systems that have not kept pace with the business’s requirements
  • IT costs have grown out of proportion to the trading style of the business
  • difficulties in producing timely management information, due to lack of integration
  • unacceptable risk associated with over-dependence on key staff or external suppliers
  • systems that have become too cumbersome and onerous to support

If you recognise any of these scenarios you may well benefit from an IT Strategy Review.

What does an IT strategy review involve?

“…but what will this IT strategy involve?” Firstly, it is necessary to have clear understanding of the business strategy and the key result areas that impact the success of the business. From this solid foundation the relevant information system technologies required to support the business can be identified.

These requirements need to be compared with the existing systems and the gap clearly articulated, thus defining the agenda for change.

The IS market is likely to offer many potential solutions. These need to be identified and subjected to a balanced appraisal covering cost, benefits, risk profile and their ability to satisfy the business’s particular requirements.

This appraisal provides the means to prioritise and time-phase the various elements of the strategy. Once the priorities become clear the new strategy can be documented, including an overall plan for change.

What are the benefits of an IT strategy review?
  • IT expenditure aligned to the business’s requirements and appropriate to the circumstances
  • clear visibility of planned IT expenditure over a period of years and phased in line with the business’s projected development
  • more reliable budgeting
  • improved management information
  • fewer IT support headaches
  • significantly reduced risk, fewer ‘surprises’

The case for having an IT strategy, and regularly reviewing it in the light of changing circumstances, is clear. A well thought out IS strategy will reduce cost, reduce risk and increase the overall efficiency of your IT operation.