I have observed many situations where a c-level person was supposed to document an IT Strategy in a short period of time in order to prepare the following year’s annual budget. Very often lacking much supporting documented business information the result is a weak strategy, sometimes ignored by the user’s community, the key stakeholders.
A weak IT strategy can be costly and wasteful, especially for resource-constrained organizations that operate with minimal budget, tools, knowledge and people. It also implies that organizations cannot respond to changing business requirements rapidly enough. The absence of strategic anticipation causes organizations to be inefficiently reactive, forcing them to work in a constant state of catch-up.
An IT Strategy should answer the following questions:
- Are we doing the right things with technology to address the organization’s most important business priorities and continuously deliver value to the clients?
- Are we making the right technology investments?
- Do we measure what is the real value to the organization derived from that technology?
- Is our current Information Technology agile enough; flexible to continuously support a successful organization?
- Is our Information Technology environment properly managed, maintained, secured, able to support the clients, and is it cost effective?
- Can our strategy support current and future business needs?
Quite often the first thing we should consider when writing such a document is the targeted audience and its content. Different people with varying roles and responsibilities may read an IT Strategy within a company, so the document may need to serve several different purposes. It is not easy to pitch a strategy to different levels in the hierarchy within an organization, and at the appropriate level of detail. Sometimes it is too detailed and does not always match the stakeholder’s needs.
An IT Strategy is an iterative process to align IT capabilities with the business strategy and requirements:
- It is a documented and approved process (part of the organization’s governance framework)
- It is iterative (it needs to be frequently be revisited). Traditionally, IT strategies are updated and communicated on an annual basis, usually to meet budget cycles. This should be considered the minimum review period. If an emerging technology surfaces that has the potential to enhance the business, it should be investigated and communicated to the business as soon as possible. A one-year cycle may be too late.
- It is a strong alignment of business and IT capabilities rather than designing IT solutions to support business requirements
- Assuming that both business and IT capabilities drive each other
- Assuming that business drives IT and not the other way around
- The IT Strategy sets future direction for IT function in the organization
- Ensuring that the IT budget is spent on value creation activities for the business
- Creating shareholder value
- Helping to maximize the return on IT investments
- The IT Strategy may include sub-elements such as:
- Infrastructure strategy
- Application strategy
- Integration strategy
- Service strategy
- Sourcing strategy
- Innovation strategy
This pyramid diagram can be used to illustrate the IT strategy and vision, and how the technology and business strategies are totally aligned. At the top of the pyramid is the enterprise overarching vision. Aligned below that is how IT supports the vision by becoming a premier IT organization in creating competitive advantage for the clients. The IT vision is in turn supported by three pillars: integration, improvement, and innovation.
To deliver this , the business strategy should clearly be articulated and documented taking into account some IT aspects. There are different ways of gathering these business inputs.
The first approach is a very classical one where you develop a questionnaire in business terms which asks each business unit to identify their future requirements for infrastructure growth, taking into account capacity and availability requirements. This extracts the data you need for business driven strategy.
This questionnaire may include some of the following examples of questions:
1. What are your top 5 business “pain” points? These are things that you wish you had a solution for
2. What are your top 5 business objectives? These can be short term or long term, can be driven by revenue, cost, time, time to market, competitive advantage, risk or various other reasons
3. How do you plan to achieve these objectives?
4. What will we gain by leveraging IT Capabilities across the business?
5. What is in the way of achieving your business imperatives?
6. Can IT help achieve your business imperatives?
7. How much do you spend on IT capabilities?
8. What is your technology ROI?
9. Does your company have a plan for technology?
10. Does your business plan include a technology plan?
11. Where is IT being used across your business unit?
The second approach would be the use of Enterprise Architecture that I will explain later on.
With this input you may now start to consider the structure of your document. It may look similar to this example below: An executive summary
- An introduction
- The purpose
- The background
- The Business drivers
- The Organizational drivers
- The IT drivers
- The Business and IT aspects
- The Business Goals and Objectives
- The IT approaches and principles
- The IT components
- Business application systems
- IT infrastructure
- Security and IT Service continuity
- Structure, organization and management
- IT Governance
- Skills, knowledge and education
- IT Financial management
- KPIS, measurement and metrics, balance scorecards
- Technologies opportunities
- Key issues
And this is where Enterprise Architecture may have to play an important and even crucial role. Some companies I have encountered have an Enterprise Architecture team, and in parallel, somebody called an IT Strategist. Frequently the connection is non-existing or quite weak. Other organizations may also have a Strategic Planning unit, again without any connection with the Enterprise Architecture team.
An Enterprise Architecture must play the important role of assessing; existing IT assets, architecture standards and the desired business strategy to create a unified enterprise-wide environment – where the core hardware and software systems are standardised and integrated across the entire organisation’s business processes, to greatly enhance competitive advantage and innovation. The IT Strategy details the technologies, application and the data foundation needed to deliver the goals of the corporate strategy, while Enterprise Architecture is the bridge between strategy and execution; providing the organising logic to ensure the integration and standardisation of key processes that drive greater agility, higher profitability, faster time to market, lower IT costs, improved access to shared customer data and lower risk of mission-critical systems failures.
As a real example, TOGAF 9 is perfect way to produce that IT Strategy document during the Phase F: Migration Planning.
Below you will find the relationship between some phases of the ADM and the structure of the above document. It needs to be said that we should probably use a Strategic architecture level to deliver a first version of the document, which then could be reviewed with Segment or Capability architectures.
|Content||Examples||Enterprise Architecture and TOGAF|
|An executive summary|
|An introduction (This document must be business oriented)|
|Content||Examples||Enterprise Architecture and TOGAF|
|The purpose||Key elements of the scope, audience, time horizon||The Preliminary phase is about defining ‘‘where, what, why, who, and how” Enterprise Architecture will be done and will provide all information. It also creates the conditions and context for an Architecture Capability|
|The background||Business problems, constraints (financial, resources, IT, legal, etc.)||This is covered by the Phase A: Architecture Vision. An Architecture Vision sets stage for each iteration of ADM cycle.|
-Provides high-level, aspirational view of target the sponsor uses to describe how business goals are met and stakeholder concerns are addressed
The Business Scenarios is used to discover and document business requirements, identify constraints, etc.
|The Business drivers||Market conditions, competition, consumer trends, new customers, products sales, costs savings, incremental services revenues, drivers related to the IT function||In the Phase A: Architecture Vision, we:|
Identify business goals and strategic drivers
|The Organizational drivers||Profitability, financial performance, change in strategic objectives, end of the product development life cycle, mergers and acquisitions, staffs, risks|
|The IT drivers||New or obsolete technologies, updates||Considering that IT is part of the Business, these drivers should also be considered in that phase|
|The Business and IT aspects|
|The Business Goals and Objectives||Market growth, entering new markets, addressing manufacturing capacities||In the Phase A: Architecture Vision, we:|
Identify business goals and strategic drivers
|The IT approaches and principles||IT standards, development, implementation, delivery, testing, consolidation, maturity, best practices||Standards should be documented in the SIB (Standard Information Base)|
When we define the Architecture Governance Framework during the Preliminary Phase, we identy the various touch points with existing other frameworks in the organization
|The IT components|
|Business application systems||Baseline (main applications: ERP, CRM, customers facing systems). Future plans, concerns, time period, priorities)||This will be addressed by Phase C: Information Systems based on the Statement of Architecture Work, output from the Phase A|
|IT infrastructure||Baseline (servers, network , middleware, technical services)||This will be addressed by Phase D: Technology Architecture based on the Statement of Architecture Work, output from the Phase A|
|Security and IT Service continuity||Issues, challenges, opportunities related to security, security principles, controls||Security concerns are addressed during all phases of the ADM|
|Structure, organization and management|
|IT Governance||Best practices, frameworks, management and monitoring, resource management, portfolio management, vendors management, IT service management, project management, etc.||IT Governance will be considered when the Architecture Governance Framework is defined. There will obviously be touch points between the ADM and some other best practices used by the organization. IT Governance is defined outside of the Enterprise Architecture programme|
|Skills, knowledge and education||Skills, knowledge and education||Enterprise Architecture skills will have to be addressed by the Architecture Capability Framework. Other skills may also be identified independently of the Enterprise Architecture programme|
|IT Financial management||IT budget, costs structures, measurement and metrics, targets, areas needing investments, etc.||This is addressed is outside of the Enterprise Architecture programme|
|KPIS, measurement and metrics, balance scorecards||IT performance measurements on SMART objectives ((Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, & Time bound)||Every governance frameworks may have its own KPIs. Enterprise Architecture KPIs may be added to that list.|
|Technologies opportunities||Emerging technologies, business related benefits||This can be done in parallel of the Enterprise Architecture programme|
|Key issues and initiatives||Summary or link to the IT Project portfolio||This can be done in parallel of the Enterprise Architecture programme|
|Direct relationship with Enterprise Architecture|
|Indirect relationship with Enterprise Architecture|
|Produced somewhere else|
The next step would be the review of the IT Strategy document by the main stakeholders who would accept or reject technology opportunities. This could also be used as an important source of information for the Strategic Planning exercise (please refer to another post for additional information: “How Strategic Planning relates to Enterprise Architecture? “).
Once the IT Strategy has been reviewed, amended and authorised (which should in reality already be approved, as it is the result of various ADM cycles and the output of Phase F: Migration planning), the multi-disciplinary programme team for the implementation during Phase G: Implementation Governance, will deliver the solutions to the business.
As already mentioned previously, the outline strategies will be refined and expanded with a low level of detail when addressing Segment and Capability architectures. This is the part that meets the first challenge described above, where we need different levels of detail for different stakeholders. The documents should be hierarchical, with the ability to drill down to lower levels as more detail is required.
One of the main reasons for developing an Enterprise Architecture with TOGAF 9 is to support the business by providing the fundamental technology and process structure for an IT Strategy. Enterprise Architecture is the superset that represents both Business and IT Strategy; this is reflected in Enterprise Architecture’s basic structure of strategy, business architecture and technology/information architecture. One can certainly do an IT Strategy without Enterprise Architecture, but Enterprise Architecture cannot be done without an IT Strategy; the same would apply to business strategy/business architecture.