5 steps to align your IT strategy with your business goals

‘Who is looking over the horizon for your business from an IT strategy point of view?’

Every day, hundreds of new discoveries are made that will inevitably change the way your business operates. Many of these discoveries will require minor alterations to your business model at most, while a few others have the potential to render entire industries obsolete. (Kodak, anyone?)

For example, I recently came across an article published in Forbes entitled 3D Printing Is About to Change the World Forever. While unimpressed by what I thought was unquestionably a clickbait headline, I took the bait anyway. As I read on however, I realised that what I had dismissed as overzealous editorial was far closer to the truth than I thought.

The article provides two anecdotes to help us realise just how significantly 3D printing stands to upset the manufacturing industry as it currently stands:

  • Dramatically reducing the number of parts required by industrial components, which currently require the individual manufacture and assembly of tens, if not hundreds, of parts;
  • Reversing the current trend of off-shoring manufacture, instead enabling significant minimisation of the distance between production and consumption of goods; and
  • Facilitating incredible cost savings through efficiency gains by leveraging part designs that were never before thought possible.

And this is far from the only innovation with potentially far-reaching implications for your business.

As a result, while the 3D printing example is interesting (and no doubt somewhat troubling for the manufacturers among you), it is only part of a far more important concern for your business.

Which brings me back to the question I started this post with, ‘Who is looking over the horizon for your business?’ Now before you begin checking off a list of senior executives and perhaps even a dedicated strategy role, let me clarify: ‘Who is looking over the horizon for your business from an IT strategy point of view?’

When many of our clients first came to us, this was a question they struggled to answer. Whether they were managing their IT internally or were already outsourcing, their IT functions were primarily focused on pedaling hard enough to meet the day to day requirements of the business and maintaining the status quo.

As a result, numerous changes with the potential to significantly impact their businesses went without evaluation or planning, with little or no input from IT in driving the strategic direction of the business. As you can imagine, this left them gravely exposed, compromising their ability to be proactive in the face of changing industry forces.

To help these businesses gain better visibility and understanding of the changes likely to impact their success from an IT strategy point of view, we took them through a five step process to ensure their IT was aligned to the overall vision for the business. This entails a cross-functional team to:

  1. Reiterate and confirm the overall objectives for the business;
  2. Validate these objectives against industry trends for key functional area, including IT;
  3. Review past, ongoing, and planned IT initiatives to evaluate whether these initiatives actually contribute to the organisation’s ability to meet their overall objectives;
  4. Based on this review, develop and document an updated IT strategy that clearly aligns to your overall business objectives; and
  5. Prioritise and action a combination of initiatives that will:
    • Deliver some quick win results to improve the performance of the business; and
    • Help you set the foundation for long term development.

As a result of following this process, these businesses have enjoyed significant improvement in their performance, and are better equipped to meet change in the long term, as evidenced by:

  • Considerable increases in efficiency;
  • Meaningful cost savings; and
  • Near constant service up-time.

To learn more about how this process can play out for your organisation, read about the IT-driven outcomes achieved by one of our clients.

But simply following these steps isn’t enough. Both the overall strategy and IT strategy need to be reviewed regularly (annually at least, given the rapid pace of change) to re-validate them against changing market forces. That’s why as soon as I came across that article about 3D printing I immediately shared it with all of our manufacturing clients to ensure they added it to their agenda for discussion at their next strategy review, and also why I continue to monitor ‘the horizon’ for all of our clients’ industries.