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Strategies for successful long-term planning

Strategies for successful long-term planning

An eye to the future

Gartner issues a note to clients warning of impending economic doom. On one hand, it could be dismissed as just another research missive injected into the steady stream of bad news flowing out of Europe and North America.

On the other, sometimes it’s worth taking a closer look. Embedded in the report’s slightly awkward title, Anticipate Which 2012 Recession IT Strategy to Apply, is a core assumption the CIO agenda in 2012 will be dominated by another global downturn. It’s a case of not ‘if’, but ‘when’.

Various “economists, banks and business commentators” rate the probability of a recession at anywhere between 25 and 60 per cent, Gartner writes. Helpful statistics? Not really. Unsettling? A little.

But for CIOs, evaluating potential business risks such as global economics and their impact on long-term strategic IT plans has become an increasingly complex task. And it seems the list of risky scenarios keeps growing with the increasing pace of technology innovation: The so-called ‘consumerisation of IT’, greater demands from the business for sophisticated IT solutions, and transitioning to new utility-style cost models.

Then there’s new legislation on the domestic front, impacting a range of industries from high-tech to healthcare, financial planning and the entertainment industry.

For Rick Coenen, IT manager at ALH Group, new legislation is far from trivial. ALH is an entertainment and hotel conglomerate 75 per cent owned by Woolworths and 25 per cent by entrepreneur, Bruce Mathieson. Coenen explained the proposal to introduce a pre-commitment system, whereby gamblers pre-commit to a total spending amount on each poker machine, directly impacts his plans.

“We would like to have a project up and running to do a complete review of our gaming systems, but with the review of pre-commitment, we don’t know what our requirements will be,” he says.

I’m now using IT to drive transformation

Other business issues impacting the efficacy of a CIO’s long-term strategic planning are better understood.

Chief executive at recruiting firm Peoplebank, Peter Acheson, explains one of his objectives is growth through acquisition. Underpinning the strategy is a directive that the IT systems of any acquired organisations will be rolled into Peoplebank’s infrastructure. “I’m now using IT to drive transformation,” he says.

Acheson’s confidence in ICT’s role as an acquisition enabler comes after he engaged in a strategic review of Peoplebank’s technology operations with national IT manager, Gerard Hughes, 18 months ago.

In this case, Hughes says, the organisation achieved a sound long-term strategy by aligning IT’s goals with that of the business and effectively engaging each of the stakeholders across various business units.

What else?

The adage of ‘aligning business and IT’ is perhaps too often proffered in CIO circles, prompting the question: What else does it take?

In Peoplebank’s case, successful long-term strategic planning involves detailed risk analysis on individual IT projects, an understanding of governance requirements, investment analysis, budget demands and security impacts.

“I think the core issue is to understand the strategic intent of the organisation,” Hughes says. “From this you can work out where the business plans to be in a couple of years’ time, [and] convert it into what IT needs to do to enable the business to reach that point.

“You can perform a current state versus future state analysis of IT to determine the IT gaps, then from this an IT roadmap can be developed to achieve the transformation required.”

His perspective reflects the four cycles typically considered by CIOs when developing strategic IT plans: Very short term (one quarter), short term (12 months), mid term (three years), and long term (10 years). Long-term strategies are constantly re-evaluated in light of short-term events, according to Gartner. But the bigger question is: Should CIOs set these long-term plans in stone? Peter Evans Greenwood, an independent enterprise advisor, thinks not.

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