5 important non-IT elements when introducing IT strategy

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Read an article by Aleksandra Domagała – Lead User Experience Consultant at Capgemini Poland

Let’s imagine: Information Technology is a car, and a strategy is a navigation to your desired goal. Assuming that the car you have works, sooner or later you  should reach your destination. Really? What if the road signs are not visible, you are driving in a country with unfamiliar road rules,  you are not sure about the precise destination to add into your navigation…?

Even in a perfect car and with a working navigation system, you might not be able to reach your  destination. Thus, even with a great technology and with a newly created IT strategy, you might not be able to reach your goal.

There are so many different non-technology aspects that can affect whether or not you achieve your desired results.  I observe that whereas IT departments are really focused on technologies, they often forget about many other aspects needed for successful planning and then, IT strategy implementation. Today, I’d like to share with you some of my insights, from a non-technical perspective.

Enterprise goals determine the IT strategy journey

The IT Strategy can’t exist in isolation. It supports the enterprise strategy, but also, IT should bring competitive advantage to the business. No longer is an IT role in an organization just to support business functions, but rather to enable them to grow, and to strengthen the position  in the market. As Jon Maholic aptly stated in his great book, IT Strategy: A 3-Dimensional Framework to Plan Your Digital Transformation and Deliver Value to Your Enterprise[1], the successful CIO who designs IT strategy, must be focused  on four things—increase sales, reduce expenses, optimize assets, and mitigate risks. Therefore, when creating a new IT strategy, you must look beyond technology and truly understand the business, marketplace, relationships with customers, vendors, supply chain, regulatory landscape, global economy, and other elements which previously did not bother IT experts. A more in-depth  discussion with many stakeholders from your organization is needed. And that can be tough. Smooth cooperation with experts from so many areas can be fruitful yet a real challenge, since departments in many organizations are real silos. However, the future state indicated by your strategy must strengthen and position the whole business for success, not just improve the state of IT and introduce innovations. That might seem obvious, but I have met CIOs who were looking for “North Stars”, brilliant, bright new technologies which were supposed to solve all the problems. However, what was really needed was an in-depth business analysis. So, when planning your future state, you should focus on answering the following question early: What challenge, inefficiency or shortcoming in your enterprise does the future state address?

Know where you are now, to navigate the way forward

Another example of the short-sighted approach in strategy creation, was the client attempting to create a digital workplace strategy with no due diligence being conducted. Strategy is not a high-level vision with perfectly stated goals, at best supplemented with some market research. With no current state analysis, organization maturity assessment, and change readiness assessment, we cannot really say what will enable the business to grow and what will really improve employees’ experiences. Yes, that is a lot of work, dozens of workshops must be conducted, many documents need to be reviewed. However, in the end, when you present it to the senior executives you must be prepared for the questions such as, How much does it cost?, How  long will it take? Why does it cost so much? There are no shortcuts here. Which mechanic knows what’s wrong with your car, only by looking at the current automotive trends and innovations? Detailed analysis is needed, indeed.

IT governance – rules of the road needed to achieve your destination

Michael Porter’s well-known quote on strategy is ”The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do”. That immediately makes us think about what we should and shouldn’t do; how to reach agreement on this; and the reality is that an IT strategy touches and affects so many areas in an enterprise.  The answer can be in setting-up an IT solution and its governance. A well-built governance process keeps IT focused on the priorities established by the executives; whereas for the business areas, this process ensures that their needs (when aligned with the priorities designated by top management) are implemented.  Effective and efficient  IT governance can also be a remedy for unmonitored security vulnerabilities caused by shadow IT (the use of IT environment without IT department approval). And to be honest with you, based on hundreds of my interviews with employees from various industries, shadow IT exist nearly everywhere. The only differences are scope and scale – what kind of data – is shared and with whom.

Strong and active sponsorship – both an engine and a beacon for your journey

Strong and active what does it mean? It means that there is recognition, wide appreciation, and full engagement in IT strategy initiatives. Executive sponsorship and support are critical. Sponsors’ participation in project board meetings and acting in case of escalations, are certainly not enough. So how they should engage to increase project success?

Firstly, they are essential to winning more supporters among executives and other important stakeholders, convincing others to cooperate with the project team. If the leader of a change initiative is not empowered by a powerful and top-ranking executive, one business area may exert its political power to abstain from participating in the change.

Secondly, according to Prosci[2], visible and active sponsorship is the single greatest contributor to the success of change initiatives. It is crucial for executive sponsorship to inspire and motivate the organization to understand the needs and urgency of changes. The solutions planned in your roadmap can be carefully chosen, but with no proper change management and with sponsors truly engaged, technology adoption can be really low.

Thirdly, it is important for executive sponsors to clearly articulate the goals and the reasons for IT strategy. So, on the one hand you need a current state analysis, but on the other hand, the desired future must be stated by the executives.

Well-planned change management process – encouraging others to join the ride

For your strategy to be adopted, you must find ways to not only inform, but mostly to encourage, motivate or compel people to align with the roadmap. Because of this need, organizational change management is critical to the success. How should you prepare for that? Your team ought to assess the scale of change, its impact on the organization and employees’ resistance. Based on those, appropriate actions should be planned in the following areas: communication, leadership engagement and training. Of course, the more different your future state is from the current state, the more intense these should be. To give you an example, on one of my projects, an organization was going through a massive digital change including outsourcing the whole IT function. And it was CIO who was meeting with regular employees chosen as change ambassadors and was informing and describing ‘why’ and ‘how’ of the change. The employees felt appreciated, understood and they spread the positive news to others.

And this example can also be a summary of what strategy is all about. Initially it is only on paper, but the real drivers are people. The people who understand the goals, want to join the new journey, and participate in its implementation.

If you want to read more on our approach at Capgemini on improving employee experience, I encourage you to take a look at this page: Connected Employee Experience

[1] Maholic, Jim. IT Strategy: A 3-Dimensional Framework to Plan Your Digital Transformation and Deliver Value to Your Enterprise (p. 5).

[2] Prosci: Using the ADKAR Model to Build Better Sponsors;  https://www.prosci.com/blog/using-the-adkar-model-to-build-better-sponsors

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