As we keep exploring the importance of an IT strategy in an age of rapidly changing technology, it is increasingly clear that IT leaders are challenged with various uncertainties. There are business climate uncertainties, but this focus is on IT strategy uncertainties over which you may be losing some sleep.

Is your IT strategy more tactical than strategic? Ask yourself, what percentage of each day or week is spent by my team running IT versus improving or transforming it? The answer is often 80/20 and sometimes further apart. It may sound overly simplistic but many CIOs are often too busy with the issues they have to solve today to think about what they should be doing tomorrow. Think of strategic as the “what” and tactical as the “how” (the execution). Not to say that there is anything wrong with tactical; you will need it to execute on the strategy. But the strategy must come first and be given enough thought and cycles to have a substantial impact.

Does your IT strategy fully support the overall business plan? Most companies define strategic business objectives around revenue growth, cost reduction, increased customer satisfaction, and possibly mergers and acquisitions, etc. Business units will shape their individual plans around these business objectives.  IT must be able to support the business units in the execution of their individual plans. Now for the tactical, has an execution plan been developed for the IT strategy? While a good IT strategy may exist, a poorly communicated or nonexistent execution plan or unmeasurable outcomes often result in failure.

This brings us to Core vs Context – Which IT functions give the business a competitive advantage (Core) versus commodity IT (Context) and which ones do you excel at versus those you could farm out?  Identifying commodity, low value IT functions gives the CIO an opportunity to potentially outsource IT services that bring no competitive advantage to the company or those that IT does not execute as well. This allows the IT team to focus on services that bring the most value to the business.

core vs context

Geoffrey A. Moore, from the book “Dealing with Darwin”

Business growth is putting pressure on IT infrastructure, but is your IT keeping up? When business demand exceeds IT’s ability to deliver, the business will look at alternatives in order to remain competitive. This is likely to have an impact on future IT funding among other things.  Adopting a two-stream IT approach (a.k.a. bimodal or two-speed IT) will help IT keep the controls in place for critical applications and systems use to run the business while allowing the deployment of other less critical new systems much faster with only basic controls in place to quickly respond to demand. More stringent controls are later applied if and when these new applications and systems become critical.

Does your IT staff have the right skills? And does the IT strategy include training or hiring specialized IT resources? This is directly related to Core versus Context activities. Skills development and talent acquisition should focus on supporting the core IT activities that are the key to helping the business reach its objectives.

And lastly, are cybersecurity and business continuity part of your IT strategy or more of an afterthought? According to a recent study by PWC, “42.8 million detected security attacks took place in 2014. That is an average of 117,339 per day and up 43% from 2013.”  Yet, according to Gartner research published in January 2015, “CIOs’ top 5 technology priorities for 2015 are BI/Analytics, Infrastructure and Data Center, Cloud, ERP and Mobile.”


Try to get some sleep tonight but be sure to tackle this first thing tomorrow!

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