The IT Strategy creation process

In this post I’ll summarise the process i’ve used in multiple companies to create great IT Strategies. in coming posts i’ll flesh out each of the phases of the IT strategy creation in more detail:

At a high level the phases are:

  1. Mobilisation
  2. Discovery
  3. Analysis
  4. Creation
  5. Approval
  6. Implementation planning

1) Mobilisation

The focus of the Mobilisation phase is about setting yourself up for success in all subsequent phases. Mistakes or lack of attention in this phase will seriously undermine the success of the whole process, the quality of the strategy itself, the likelihood of sign-off/approval by decision-makers and the likelihood of successful implementation. The mobilisation phase needs to focus on:

  • Scope
  • Logistics e.g. scheduling interviews
  • Stakeholder analysis and engagement
  • Communications to stakeholders on the strategy creation effort
  • Timelines, planning, setting expectations etc
  • Pulling together contextual materials (e.g. business plan, current strategy etc)

2) Discovery

The Discovery phase is about finding, collating, research and immersing yourself in as much information as possible to inform the IT Strategy. The Discovery phase is about going as wide as possible within the constraints available (time/resource/etc) and in particular focuses on:

  • Context (IT, Org, Market, Macro)
  • Stakeholder engagement and Interviews
  • Business Architecture
  • Enterprise Architecture
  • IT Organisation
  • Budget/Spend

3) Analysis

The Analysis phase is about Synthesising the information that was captured in the Discovery phase. Key areas of focus in the Analysis phase include:

  • Replay/Confirm/Iteration on information collated in the discovery phase
  • Cataloguing and Modelling
  • Gap Analysis
  • Starting to identify and playback themes that have been uncovered

4) Creation

The Creation phase continues the narrowing of the funnel of possibilities that was started in the Analysis phase and committing the definitive strategy to ‘paper’. Key areas of focus in this phase are:

  • Drafting the Strategy
  • Nailing down the strategy themes
  • Nailing the business case
  • Crafting the message and any required presentations
  • Senior Stakeholder engagement

5) Approval

What happens in this phase is dependent on the organisation’s usual rituals but normally involves some form of approval process e.g. presentation to and sign off from the board. If you’ve done a good job in the preceding phases (senior stakeholder engagement being probably the most critical success factor for Approval) then this should be a relatively straightforward phase, although i’ve definitely experienced times when it has not been straightforward, this has usually been, on reflection, due to a failure on my part in stakeholder analysis and/or engagement e.g. mis-assessing the importance of a stakeholder, leading to not addressing their needs in the strategy, leading to re-work of the strategy before final approval. At the end of the Approval phase the focus should be on:

  • Communications to stakeholders involved in the strategy creation process and those that will be impacted by the strategy
  • Comms to the IT organisation including any last minute revisions/feedback suggested by the board
  • Segue as quickly as possible into implementation planning

6) Implementation planning

Whilst i don’t consider detailed implementation planning to be within the scope of Strategy development, i’ve included it is as a phase in this process as a way of highlighting its importance as a segue from the strategy creation process into the strategy execution process. It is really important not to let the grass grow under the approval of your strategy, so its important to be scheduling your implementation planning work well before you have approval on the strategy, for a couple of reasons

  1. The sooner you can start executing on the strategy, the sooner you can start proving/disproving your strategic hypotheses and giving your senior stakeholder confidence through visible progress
  2. The longer the gap between approval and starting to implement, the more likely there is that something (org environmental events, people change, politics, etc) might de-rail your strategy

Summary

In this post I’ve covered the high level process phases that i believe need to be present in order to help create a great IT Strategy. In future posts I’ll cover each of these in more detail.

Podcast!

In addition to this lovely newsletter/blog (which you of course should definitely subscribe to so you don’t miss the upcoming posts). i’m also producing a companion podcast that is available here (and should soon be available on all popular podcast platforms). Initially the podcast will be audio versions of the newsletter, but may branch out into interviews in the future.

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