NVTC is inviting members and industry leaders to serve as guest bloggers, sharing insights and information on trends or business issues relevant to other members. This week, Jeanine T. Dillon, a consultant at member company LMI, discusses the importance of a business-focused information technology (IT) strategy and how to develop a clear line of sight between business problems, strategies, and IT projects.

Developing a business-focused information technology (IT) strategy is critical to the success of any IT leadership group. Whether you’re working with the whole organization or a specific department, your IT strategic plan needs to link all proposed projects to the pain points of business users and their customers.This clear line of sight between business problems, strategies, and IT projects facilitates buy-in, identifies barriers and strengths, and aligns potential projects with business goals. To develop a clear line of sight, first identify your organization’s pain points, or deficiencies. How? Schedule interviews with key stakeholders. Talking to people from across the enterprise reveals how they and their customers perceive the need for change and provides them the opportunity to shape solutions.ID-100175616This human touch is critical in securing widespread buy-in where stakeholders feel like they are a part of the solution. It also provides the opportunity to document activities, applications, information classes, and roles, as well as desired end states.Armed with this information, you can employ the following three steps to develop an IT strategic plan that ensures investments address business problems.

Step 1. Compare current and target states to identify gaps

First, evaluate how well your current practices address business problems and identify gaps that, when corrected, will produce a more effective target state. Using stakeholder input, you can then identify high-level strategies that enable your organization to transition effectively to the desired state.

Step 2. Identify potential projects

For each strategy developed in the first step, identify projects to close the gap and achieve the desired state. Be sure every potential project maps with strategies that address business problems. If they don’t align, consider dropping them.

Step 3. Translate projects into a strategic plan

Now it’s time to prioritize your projects by identifying the time-phased order—short, near, and long term—in which they should be considered. Again, stakeholder input is critical. To rank your projects, you’ll need to identify resources needed, dollar costs, and critical success factors.

Sample problem

An organization feels its requisitions take too long to process. Following are steps to develop a clear line of sight between IT investment and the issue.

Step 1. Through interviews, it is discovered current processes require requisitions to be printed, manually signed, and faxed to order fulfillment. Management wants to see an automated, end-to-end order processing system to minimize processing time. With this desired future state in mind a potential strategy is to update current systems to enhance e-commerce.

Step 2. Employing digital certificates is one potential project to close the gap. Or, a permission-level login might be added to the current system to serve as authorization.

Step 3. After reviewing the projects, it is discovered digital certificate technology is used elsewhere in the organization, making it a good short-term opportunity. After some consideration, adding the permission-level login might be a near-term initiative. Assessing the resources and costs for each project, as well as critical success factors, the projects are ranked.

When executed across-the-board, developing a clear line of sight helps you and your organization invest in IT projects that address critical business problems. Involving stakeholders in decision-making at every step helps you ensure IT projects are wholly related to solving business problems.

Jeanine Dillon is a member of LMI’s Information Management group, which provides strategic advice and program management support to government agencies implementing enterprise-wide systems. Jeanine has 15 years of professional enterprise architecture (EA) consulting experience. She uses her skills in EA design, development, modeling, and analysis to assist federal agencies, both civil and defense, with reviewing and improving processes, planning migration of information and implementation strategies, and analyzing requirements, often using structured methods and tools.



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