Just as proactivity is a necessary virtue for a great IT team, the capacity for IT strategic planning is also essential. A good strategic plan will be an IT roadmap that clearly directs your organization’s IT goals and strategies for the next few years. Strategic planning should also align your service goals with the organization’s broader goals to ensure business continuity and effective disaster prevention and recovery.
Predicting how things will change can be difficult as the workplace increasingly relies on remote connectivity and cloud-based applications. Companies used to be able to rely on most employees working within the confines of the organization’s network on devices strictly used for work activities. However, this is no longer the case with the increase in hybrid and remote work. IT service providers have more challenges ahead than ever; you must engage in strategic planning to adequately address them.
What is IT strategic planning?
Your IT strategic planning should result in guidelines or overall goals for your organization, specifically for your technological infrastructure. These plans are the broad strokes that correspond with your organization’s overall goals, which are somewhat different from the day-to-day IT strategies that you employ for solving problems, addressing vulnerabilities, and managing assets. Strategic planning takes the long view, giving you goals to work toward while implementing your IT strategies.
There is a connection between IT strategic planning and organizational strategic planning. In IT strategic planning, you set goals that typically extend up to five years in the future, and these goals involve your infrastructure management but correspond to the organization’s general strategic plans. Your IT goals should complement and support your organization’s goals, and generally, what happens in the IT department tends to affect the rest of the organization, whether that’s successful implementation of remote connectivity or failure to contain malware.
The importance of IT strategic planning
With a well-considered framework that outlines your goals, you can simplify and enhance your decision-making processes and improve resource allocation. Rather than making one-off decisions based only on the information you have at the moment, you can factor in your organization’s goals and make more well-informed decisions. Clearly-outlined objectives allow you to evaluate options more quickly while retaining a clear sense of purpose.
You can also delegate tasks to your team, knowing they can compare their action plans against the preset guidelines. A clear plan also helps your team mitigate risks and address challenges without losing sight of the big picture.
Improve IT purchases
When you consider software or hardware purchases, IT strategic planning provides guidance to help you determine whether a purchase will ultimately benefit your long-term goals. If you’re trying to prioritize projects, it helps to know where you want to be in three years so that you can first complete those projects that most contribute to those goals.
Anticipate organizational needs
Another advantage of strategic planning and IT forecasting is an early assessment of your organization’s needs over time. By anticipating how your infrastructure may need to change and stretch to reach the goals you set in your plan, you drive innovation and technological advancements within the organization.
IT agility and adaptability
Finally, strategic planning enables agility and adaptability in a dynamic IT landscape. It helps you adjust efficiently to any changes in your environment and respond appropriately to unexpected problems. Rather than getting bogged down in decision paralysis, you and your team can focus on solutions that work with the strategic plan, and you can implement solutions that have been developed proactively.
5 key components of an IT strategic plan
An effective IT strategic plan includes several key components that ensure the plan is relevant, useful, and comprehensive. When you create your plan, be sure to:
Align IT projects with business objectives: When you create your IT strategic plan, it should be influenced by your company’s overall strategic planning. Whether certain financial goals or growth targets are in mind, your plan should reflect and support those efforts. When you’re scheduling projects, prioritize the projects that most support company goals first.
Create an IT roadmap for future technology adoption and upgrades: As with projects, any upgrades or purchases should be organized so that the first priority is whatever best supports the long-term goals. For example, if your organization wants to double its revenue over five years, making the aging website more user-friendly will come before company-wide workstation upgrades.
Create IT policies and procedures for cybersecurity and data protection: Part of strategic planning means being proactive about disaster prevention. A malware attack can set your organization’s goals back through lost money and uptime, and a data leak can quickly damage your business’s reputation. The effects from disasters such as these can be mitigated (or potentially avoided) through effective and proactive preparation. When it comes to your security, you don’t want to be caught off guard. Create policies and access controls that limit access to data and infrastructure.
Standardize IT services: Establishing a standard way of providing services keeps technicians focused and reduces the time they spend working on a problem. This also makes it easier for technicians to step in and out of projects or support tasks; the person who takes over is better equipped to get to work if they don’t have to be debriefed on the exact process for a particular task. You should also establish new required services and best practices to keep things moving smoothly in the future.
Establish goals, performance metrics, and key performance indicators (KPIs): Essential guidelines are good, but assessing your own performance without measurements is difficult. When you create your goals, they should be both conceptual and quantitative. To return to the earlier example, if your company wants to double revenue in five years, it should have annual benchmarks, and your plan should provide goals for performance that contribute to those benchmarks. It’s also essential to assess whether your technology still effectively supports those goals or upgrades are needed to improve performance.
IT strategic planning process
Now that you know what your IT strategic planning should involve, the next step is understanding the key components for creating that strategic plan.
Gathering and analyzing data on current IT infrastructure and capabilities is needed to create a baseline. For a firm grasp on what you can reasonably achieve, it’s also important to inventory your resources. Do IT capacity planning to ensure that your current hardware, data storage solutions, and resources are enough to scale as your organization grows.
You should also consider IT asset lifecycle management for efficient asset utilization and retirement. Many organizations find that multiple departments track assets (sometimes redundantly and sometimes not at all), making device inventory inefficient and often inaccurate. To get an accurate idea of your available resources, centralize your IT asset management. Once you know where you stand, you can identify where you want to go.
Look at emerging technologies and industry trends, and evaluate how they might help you achieve your organization’s goals. For example, remote work has become increasingly common, and staying ahead of the curve for securing remote devices and improving connectivity and communication may be a desirable area of focus in your planning.
Create an IT mission that aligns with your organization’s overall mission so that your efforts benefit the entire company over several years. Your plan should be forward-thinking and allow you to look beyond immediate crises, and it needs to be flexible enough to allow for revision over time.
Also, consider the financial angle. IT can only take up a little of the budget as it is only one part of a larger organization. Ensure that you’re considering your organization’s financial forecasts and potential IT infrastructure spending over the next three to five years, and ensure that the two projections are compatible. If they are not, you should consider how to cut costs, better allocate resources, and increase efficiency to align with your company’s budget.
Developing specific strategies and action plans for the short-term is necessary as well, however. When making your plan, create an IT roadmap with tasks or action items that you can act upon in the near future.
For example, suppose your organization’s goal is to increase efficiency. In that case, one of your action items could be implementing a remote maintenance and monitoring solution to decrease the time IT technicians spend traveling and completing basic tasks. Also, you could consider IT asset management (ITAM) software to track and optimize IT resources.
Finally, you should implement, monitor, and evaluate the IT strategic plan. It may take a few weeks or months to work out all the bugs in your plan, so be sure to regularly ensure that your IT roadmap has been effective guidance for your tasks and that current projects are fully aligned with your goals.
Remember, a strategic plan is not necessarily finished once every five years. You should periodically review your goals and priorities to adjust for any changes in resource availability, financial forecasts, or organizational realignments.
Planning for IT and organizational success
The challenges IT professionals face are unprecedented, but by strategically planning your IT approach, you can become adaptable without losing sight of your organization’s goals. By implementing a plan that accounts for the organization’s mission and business success, your team can improve its project prioritization, independent decision-making, and financial salience.
An effective IT strategy involves long-term and short-term goals, accurate assessments of current and future resources, and periodic reevaluations. This process will take time and resources, but once the plan is in place, your team will be more effective and efficient, leading to greater IT team success and total organizational success.
Building an efficient and effective IT team requires a centralized solution that acts as your core service deliver tool. NinjaOne enables IT teams to monitor, manage, secure, and support all their devices, wherever they are, without the need for complex on-premises infrastructure.
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