Mobilising the creation of an IT Strategy

Richard Sage
4 min readJul 5, 2020
Photo by Laurie Decroux on Unsplash

In this post we’ll start to delve into some key things to consider right at the start of your IT Strategy journey, in what I’d term the Mobilisation phase.

Why?

I don’t want to come across as that awful “start with why” guy, but this is essential. If you can’t answer in a couple of sentences why you are embarking on this journey then you need to pause and not proceed until you can. If you don’t have your elevator pitch ready, then you can easily lose the potential buy-in of your key stakeholders within seconds. Do not assume the ‘why’ is obvious. The why doesn’t have to be rocket science, it just has to be authentic and resonate with your stakeholders. Examples could be:

“After the M&A of X and continued changes in our marketplace (A, B, C) now is a good time to re-assess how our IT can support our new business strategy”

“In light of what we’ve learnt as a business in adapting our operating model to respond to COVID 19 we need to take a strategic look at how our IT capability will continue to support and enable our business”

Research

An important part of the strategy creation process is gathering and then synthesising as much content as possible to inform the strategy. An important part of Mobilisation therefore involves gathering as much pre-existing content as practical, this might include things such as:

  • Company Business Plan
  • Current IT Strategy
  • Company values and culture
  • Current IT Budget and Forecast
  • Any Departmental/functional business plans and strategy
  • Organisation structures
  • Current state architecture
  • Customer journey maps
  • Process map
  • Competitor analysis
  • Market analysis

Communications

An important part of mobilisation is communicating to your stakeholder groups around your IT Strategy initiative. In addition to the ‘elevator pitch’ mentioned above, its useful to spend time planning your communications in terms of content, timings and approach and thinking about your stakeholders and tailoring your communication to ensure buy-in to your initiative, which brings us on to..

Stakeholders

I’ve talked about the essential importance of successful stakeholder analysis and engagement in previous newsletters, mobilisation is the place to start this work. A couple of very useful things to do are:

  • Stakeholder analysis, there are plenty of techniques that could be used, i’d recommend keeping it simple and using a basic power/interest quadrant, the most important thing in doing this is realising that your initial analysis will be wrong and you need to re-assess your stakeholder analysis after each stakeholder engagement
  • A top tip is to watch out for who stakeholders refer to when you are talking to them. You might initially have an idea of who has power from analysing the org chart, but often this only gives us the explicit power structures. By paying attention to whom your stakeholders refer to when you talk to them you’ll uncover a potentially richer understanding of the implicit power structures in the organisation that may either lead you to additional stakeholders to talk to or cause you to re-assess your initial stakeholder analysis.
  • Structured Interviews. The extent that you rely on structured interviews really depends on a number of factors in terms of confidence, experience, ability to build rapport and even just plain old memory. I’d recommend every talk you have with a stakeholder should be had having undertaken preparation for a structured interview, even if you don’t end up sticking to the structure. Stakeholder engagement, especially in the Discovery phase is a balance between: building rapport, being authentic, selling yourself and the initiative and also getting the nuts and bolts of information that you need.

I’ve been in scenarios where i’ve focused too much on the first 3 points and deviated too far from my planned structure and then on reflection completely missed gathering really important information. Also i’ve also stuck too rigidly to an interview structure, gathered a load of useful information but completely missed the opportunity of building a rapport. Getting the right balance is about experience, thinking about the stakeholder before yourself, active listening and recognising your own communication style and strengths in a 121 situation.

Logistics

When i write logistics i mean the basic stuff around booking in interview slots, times, meeting rooms, travel, etc. No-one is going to give you a pat on the back for nailing your logistics, but getting it wrong can risk undermining your stakeholder engagement by starting it off on the wrong foot.

‘Sketches’

Don’t wait to start sketching out your thoughts about the organisation, IT, strategy, the current state, etc. As soon as you embark on your research or having the first stakeholder interview, you’ll learn stuff that will inform your strategy. Don’t wait until those ideas are fully formed in your head, start sketching them (drawing abstract diagrams, making lists, making voice notes, whatever works for you). It is often the case that the biggest strategic issues that your IT Strategy will need to address will become apparent very quickly in your process, make sure you get them down early and you can always continue to iterate on them/edit/disregard them later.

Summary

In this week’s Newsletter we’ve talked about key things that you should be thinking about/doing in the Mobilisation phase. We’ve covered a lot of ground in this Newsletter so i may well return to some of these areas (e.g. stakeholder analysis, structured interviews) in more detail in upcoming newsletters.

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A ‘How to create a great IT Strategy’ course, that will give you the tools and guidance required to be able to create great, transformative IT Strategies is in the works and coming soon. You can register your interest on the form here

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Richard Sage

CTIO, Executive/Leader Coach, Consultant, Strategist, Architect. Transforming orgs thru Tech & helping Tech Leaders transform orgs https://www.richardsage.com/