Monthly News International

Business and Strategic Planning


Luis Praxmarer

 Luis PraxmarerThe latest trends and best practices for Business and Strategic Planning are built on the premise that in order for Information Technology to be considered successful it needs to exceed business requirements. To that end, the strategic planning process should start with identifying and thoroughly understanding business objectives. Once these are understood, the objectives and associated measures within IT should be derived to support those business objectives.

Furthermore, the IT organizational infrastructure needs to be designed and continually re-evaluated to make sure it is structured from cultural, managerial reporting and measurement perspectives to reflect and support those business objectives. If that isn’t enough of a challenge, the rapidly changing technological landscape is creating both opportunities and obstacles for CIO’s and their staff. With the adoption and integration of cloud computing, smartphones, social networking and such, the need for technologists to become well versed in both business and technology has become paramount.

It is therefore, important that any business/IT strategic planning approach look at the outcomes and what is needed to support those outcomes from a holistic viewpoint – in other words technologists need to carefully review every decision from an organizational value perspective.

The Role of Program Management: While Strategic Planning is the responsibility of the CIO, the Program Management Office has a significant role in the formulation, approval, implementation and review processes. Typically, strategic planning results in a number of initiatives and/or programs. They can also be used in a business liaison role to collect requirements, communicate changes in plans and/or new developments, and gather feedback. One of the key skills of the Program Office, facilitation, should be used throughout the planning process. 

The Strategic Planning process is relatively straight-forward. There are several steps in the process:

Information Gathering: In this phase information is collected in a number of ways, from a number of areas and participants: Communities of Practice, Program Management Office, Innovation Process, and Current IT Baseline. 

Review and Analysis: Once the inputs have been collected, it has to be analyzed to determine what changes should be made to the current environment. This includes review of ongoing initiatives to determine what value has been realized and whether these programs should continue to be funded. All of this information should be broken down according to business objectives. 

Drill Down: Once the master list is determined, a small steering group reviews the list and automatically eliminates items based on historical success, appropriate interpretation of business objectives, etc. This group is composed of a few key business executives, the Program Management Office and the CIO.

Prioritization and Validation: The next step is to prioritize the initiatives based on a number of factors including perceived value (as defined by the degree of support for business requirements), resource requirements, cost, difficulty, and timeline. This is an iterative process and can be accomplished during a facilitated session. Ultimately, the result is a validated initiative ranking.

Budgets: As a result of this input, IT budgets are put together separated by initiative and linked back to business and administrative groups.

The Innovation Process: This is a continuous process and should be used in parallel with any planning process to identify technological potential, applicability to business requirements and provide input to strategic planning. There are four phases to the innovation process: focus, ideation, ranking, and execution.

The Bottom Line: In business applications and appliances, commerce in an increasingly digital world is demanding a more critical dependency upon the “always on, real time access” model, but with a different design twist. This is not so much about the design of Crack-berry and Palm Smartphones as it is about the design of the interface, lowering unwanted complexity and providing smoothness of communication and transaction flow.