The importance of having an IT Strategy
Why does your business exist? What are your goals? How do you intend to achieve them?
All businesses will benefit from a Business Strategy that outlines the shared goals of the company and provides a roadmap for how they will be reached. Without a Business Strategy, a company is likely to lack direction, cohesion and ultimately profits. Setting a business strategy will help all staff and other stakeholders to understand where the company intends to go and how it intends to get there.
IT is a key part to any business, and to the overall Business Strategy. It is vital that an IT Strategy be produced and aligned with the overall Business Strategy to ensure IT goals, expectations, budgets and roadmaps are set correctly.
IT runs throughout a company, and it simply must work everywhere - it supports all elements of the business, and should be properly aligned with those departments' goals.
IT should be an enabler, not a hindrance.
IT must not work independently, setting its own goals and ambitions; that simply doesn't work. It can't operate in isolation or within the bounds of its own technological solutions. IT must live and breath the company ethos, IT must provide guidance to the company but it must be shaped by the company. For example... An IT Department which does not work in partnership with the rest of the business may choose to update all software systems, without question, analysis or consideration of operational factors. This would happen with good intentions i.e. cyber security, compatibility fixes etc, but it can, and will, cause problems. Perhaps the Sales Team are currently running a CRM package, a key business system, which is not compatible with the latest Operating System update. If the IT Department blindly apply significant updates, the Sales Team will be left without an operational CRM solution. Harmonisation between IT and other business functions will ensure a proper planning, testing and transition process are followed in this scenario.
Whilst IT must take the lead on overall technology management, the relevant business department and individuals must "own" each business system in order to ensure its use, maintenance and development are in line with the business requirements. A good relationship between each system role must exist to ensure everything works as it should i.e. Department Managers as "System Owners" and the IT Department as "System Management".
With an IT Strategy in place, the overall business security, in addition to Cyber Security, will be enhanced. IT plays a vital role in overall business security; without an IT Strategy aligned to the business needs and goals, how can security be ensured.
Most businesses understand the importance of protecting themselves from online threats, but it's not always clear how to ensure you have a robust Cyber Security strategy in place. As with the overarching IT Strategy, the Cyber Security Strategy must embrace all parts and functions of the business and help create a working environment which is both secure, but also allows operaqtional efficiency. Without an IT Strategy in place, it is unlikely the IT Department will have properly prepared future IT developments to be as secure and efficient as they should be.
It's not unusual, especially in larger Enterprises, for departments or business units to develop their own systems without the knowledge, input or management of the IT Department. This is Shadow IT. This leads to an unmanageable IT sprawl of systems which the business has not budgeted for and for which there is no Senior Managerial buy-in. Without IT input, these systems may be insecure and will contribute to support issues which in turn causes extra impact to users, as the IT Helpdesk will take longer to identify root causes of problems.
Finance - Through the IT Strategy process, all technology costs can be anticipated and budgeted for, allowing Function Managers to focus on their day jobs rather than pushing for cost approval ad-hoc.
Maintenance - With the IT Planning Cycle, patch management, device upgrade and refresh are all considered, thus giving easier management of upgrades due to an agreed planning and implementation cycle between IT and all Departments.
Staff Benefits - Staff can perform better at their jobs if they are given the right tools and training. With an IT Strategy in place, staff can see when and how their computers and other businesses systems are to be upgraded. With the addition of training plans, staff will be happier and retention will be improved.
Flexibility - An IT Strategy isn't a technical guide for every system, but it does provide a framework for how everything will move forward. If you're prepared then you are better positioned to adapt and respond to changes in the business, market place and even the political environment.