Creating an IT strategy that is understood and effectively executed by the stakeholders has been a difficult challenge in many IT Groups. This is rarely acknowledged but results in lack of adoption or operationalisation. There are many reasons for this:
- Focus of the strategy tends to the board or C-level team, which make the document too high level for the typical middle manager whose support is needed for implementation.
- Strategists and architects who focus on big ideas typically drive strategy development and complex concepts which are difficult to execute, thus appear to be disconnected from on ground realities of IT. Practitioner involvement can provide a different type of thinking, which enhances ability to execute strategy.
- Strategy needs to take account of people and operational realities. Often there is little effort to engage with stakeholders like key business managers and IT middle managers and experts during the strategy development process, which further reduces their buy-in. However, these stakeholders are absolutely essential for bringing realism and own strategy execution.
- Few understand that a good strategic planning process also requires the utmost attention to the hows of execution. Its substance and detail must come from people who are closest to the action and understand their customers, resources and capabilities.
- Many strategies underestimate the effort required to create new organisational capabilities needed. Strategies also fail to provide a framework for identifying and developing talent -- at all levels -- who are needed to execute the strategies.
- One key aim of the strategy is to establish a direction and state ‘how we shall operate”. The specific programs and initiatives get all the attention, and overshadow the underlying philosophy.
The successful execution of the strategy requires that not only the board and senior executives of the company understand the strategy and are clear about the execution but also other stakeholders, like department managers, project leaders and key support staff. Strategy execution requires going down from a 15,000 metre high level to may be 15 metres high. This requires identification, prioritisation and implementation of very specific things. Many organisations don’t realise the contribution practitioners can make to realistic execution planning.
Strategy planning is a great opportunity for engaging stakeholders. It provides a process to understand how well IT is supporting the business, where the business is headed, how the business and technology landscape is changing and what we must do to improve our effectiveness. It is also an opportunity to communicate, “what we shall do differently” because if nothing changes, the new strategy becomes just a piece of paper.
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