The IT roadmap

Develop your strategic IT plan
The role of technology is expanding and, as the pace quickens, technology’s impact on all aspects of business is increasing significantly.
Now more than ever, business executives of emerging, middle-market and Fortune 1000 companies need to use information technology (IT) to increase their companies’ productivity, effectiveness and competitive advantage.
The key to success is developing a proactive strategy for incorporating IT into your organization, keeping in mind that technology should help solve business problems – not exist for its own sake.
Begin by examining the forces affecting your business and by articulating
a clear vision for your
company’s future.
Here’s a three-step framework for developing a strategic IT plan:
Vision – define your business needs and IT goals.
Strategy – allocate resources to maximize your company’s technology investment and improve performance.
Implementation Approach – identify IT initiatives to maximize the progress of your plan and vision.
You should focus on how using information technology can benefit all aspects of your business. The following steps are guidelines to help you begin the planning process.
Start with the vision
You must begin by examining the forces affecting your business and by articulating a clear vision for your company’s future. That vision should align your business needs of sales and marketing, operations and the marketplace, with your IT goals.
Technology’s traditional role of data collector, information gatherer and communicator has shifted to decision-maker, knowledge manager and collaborator. Keeping that in mind, you must define the role that IT is going to play in your business. In doing so, it is important to understand the organizational, social and technological trends that are shaping this evolution.
Eight trend shifts shaping IT, according to The Gartner Group, a research firm that specializes in information technology, are:
1. Data, to decision support
2. Communication, to collaboration
3. Information, to knowledge
4. Network computing, to
ubiquitous computing
5. Graphical, to cognitive
user interfaces
6. Situated, to mobile
7. Physical, to virtual
8. Business, to consumer
Utilizing information technology as a strategic component of your business is the key to success and, in order to do so, it is important for you to understand where you currently are in this shift and where you need to go to remain competitive.
The strategy
While the vision identifies your business goals, the strategy portion of your plan outlines how you will move toward this vision. Historically, cost has driven IT strategy development. However, businesses’ reliance on IT to improve productivity, effectiveness and competitive advantage has shifted the focus to how IT can increase business value.
The Gartner Group expects businesses in the United States to increase their IT spending by 7.5% in 1998 and 8.5% in 1999. The group bases its prediction on three factors, outlined as follows.
Factors influencing IT spending
Many companies are only now beginning Year 2000 compliance projects. Spending patterns are thus shifting from business as usual to a concentration on strategic IT plans and Year 2000 compliance – and nothing else.
The rise of the Internet and the availability of mobile communication technologies make it possible for enterprises to compete globally.
Technology convergence, coupled with organizational shifts in IT spending to business units, masks this increase.
This strategy step establishes the direction your business needs to take to get the best return on its IT investment
Using information technology as a strategic component of your business is the key to success. You need to understand where you are and where you’re going.
and improve performance. Each strategy within your plan, whether it be outsourcing, network consolidation or standards adoption must be developed around available resources so that you can determine a realistic approach.
Implementation approach
The implementation portion of your plan sets the parameters for accomplishing your IT goals – what needs to be done, how much it will cost and how long it will take. Those parameters should take into consideration your corresponding projects, technology investments and organizational improvements. To avoid a disconnected plan, which only limits progress, you should keep your initiatives to a minimum.
Reaping the value of information technology begins with a clear and focused strategic IT plan, composed of vision, strategy, and implementation components which management will champion and which your entire enterprise will follow. Your strategic IT plan is only what you make of it. Unless it’s implemented and referenced, it will be another document with limited value.
Bob Landgren is a partner and the Milwaukee branch manager for Whittman-Hart, Inc.. He can be reached via e-mail at
June 1998 Small Business Times, Milwaukee

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