IT Strategic Roadmap, Brief # 3: Frameworks as Guidance and Enablers of IT Value

A Review on IT Strategic Roadmaps

An IT strategic roadmap, in very broad terms, is the “how-to” component of an IT Strategic Plan that depicts the current state of the IT organization, expresses the desired state, and describes the activities that need to be performed in order to move from the “as-is” to the desired “to-be” state— in other words; it defines the tactics and their timing to meet and enable the strategic goals described in the IT Strategic Plan. There are many factors involved in this path, and the level of complexity of the IT roadmap depends on the business and IT goals defined, and a number of of other factors such as the complexity of the organization. Each company should define an IT strategic roadmap that is achievable, realistic, and relevant to their objectives.

The Game Rules Have Changed!

In the past few decades, strategic roadmaps for IT used to be simpler to some extent, since the goals of this normally centralized “supporting department” (IT) used to be somehow mainly focused on infrastructure and technology maintenance, with less emphasis on strategic business services.

Now this has changed! IT is no longer the secondary role player that it used to be. Now IT is marching on the front lines of the business, and involved with almost every single business initiative; therefore, IT strategic planning is a top priority for any enterprise—if the business is to succeed, IT has to achieve its goals because all business processes are using “digital” in the core. The IT strategic roadmap is a key element that will lead to IT value creation and ultimately to business success.

The Challenge of Complexity

If we think of the things that IT needs to do to move from one state to another, we might bring up items such as increase staffing numbers, adopt new technologies, adopt more innovative solutions (e.g. the Cloud), enhance current capabilities, improve process maturity, and many similar items. This may not sound too hard to do, if we think of a centralized IT organization, where all people work together within limited boundaries. But how many organizations still have a centralized IT? The rapidly changing business’ requirements have led IT organizations to an accelerated growth, and with this growth has come a complex, many times even chaotic, organizational structure. Cross-functional teams, multiple areas, large numbers of employees, teams in different countries and with different cultures, are just some characteristics that most IT departments have nowadays.

This makes the equation much more complicated, since now IT executives have to elaborate an IT Strategic Plan that is effective despite this complexity. Many areas in IT have conflicting requirements, and many times, what means a benefit for one area may represent an issue for another one (e.g. Development releases applications more frequently while Operations strives for maintaining high stability). How do we make areas work together, despite any conflict of interest they may seem to have? Many major problems in IT come from conflicts between areas, and if IT is not able to work as a team, the strategic goals will have low chances to be met.

Frameworks Adopted from the Top as a Solution for Complexity

Senior managers in IT need to provide the means through which tactical and operational areas collaborate and combine efforts in alignment with the strategic plan, and be able to proactively provide IT capabilities and solutions that enable the expected value of all business functions. The adoption of processes—common practices across different areas—is the desired approach for achieving outcomes. However, it is senior IT executives’ responsibility to define the practices that must be adopted throughout the organization. Individual priorities and isolated efforts to adopt a process approach have been the reason for many framework adoption initiatives (such as ITIL) to fail.

There are a good number of frameworks specific to IT that promise better management capabilities organization-wide, better strategic alignment, better collaboration among teams, agility, and many other needed capabilities and benefits. Nonetheless, there is still resistance to these frameworks because to some people they are seen as rigid guidelines that just represent a waste of time and money, or bureaucracy; so many IT senior managers are reluctant to implement them, or worst yet to use them when available in their company; while people in lower levels tend to like them because they perceive these frameworks as good guidance for the activities that need to be performed. If an initiative like this is undertaken by just one area in the whole organization, it will certainly be a failure from a strategic perspective.

Whatever framework or practice is adopted, it has to come from the top, included as part of the actions defined in the IT strategic plan, and has to be implemented with a holistic approach in all areas of IT, to effectively enable IT value creation through any of these frameworks.

Has your organization or part of it ever tried to adopt a framework? What was the result of the initiative? Are you aware of what frameworks your organization can adopt and adapt to enable certain elements in the IT strategic plan? I invite you to share your experiences in this blog!

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