Over the last two months we have been discussing common issues preventing the creation of an IT roadmap in support of a company's strategic goals. Let us start looking at how we go about overcoming these obstacles.
Dawie Olivier: business development manager nVisionIT
Our hypothetical CIO, after making himself hugely unpopular at Company X by deriding the 'strategy' as merely empty promises, has finally managed to convince the board to take their strategy more seriously. In a number of workshops and discussions, they have finally decided that, rather than just the high-level goals, they need to be a bit more specific if they expect the strategy to be implemented throughout the company.
What they had originally touted was based on statements like 'enhance shareholder value' and 'increase customer loyalty', noble sentiments indeed, but what is the operational management of Company X supposed to do with them?
Further discussion and work-shopping identified the fact that, not only was there more substance than the flippant clichés above, but that the board in fact had some very detailed ideas about where the organisation needed to go, none of which had ever been stated explicitly. These included new product lines, new costing measures, new customer value adds and a host of practical changes designed to allow Company X to differentiate itself in its chosen market, in direct support of the warm sentiments expressed.
Using the customer value adds as an example, let us look at the process of formulating the IT roadmap. Company X supplies a product set of highly commoditised items, in high volumes, which hold a very low cost of change to the customer. For this reason, the board felt, it was important for the customer to be empowered in the buying process and to be rewarded for specific purchasing decisions. Furthermore, the board envisioned this as being an automated process of purchasing, either through a dedicated customer-facing purchasing portal, or through B2B interactions directly.
Using the information available now, the CIO has been empowered to start identifying the IT services which will be required to support the initiative above. It is important to note that, at this stage, no technology decisions can or should be made, rather that a list of required capabilities be generated. In this case, the list includes an external portal, rules-based processing and workflow.
Applying the same basic approach to each of the other stated objectives, this list of required capabilities will be expanded until it supports them all. This list also serves to identify the services or capabilities common to all or multiple of the objectives, the dependencies between them, and eventually becomes a valuable tool in making decisions around the IT landscape.
Using this list, the CIO can quickly identify where the greatest return can be generated and can focus his resources appropriately. Also important to note at this stage, is that we have not even looked at what is present in the current environment yet.
The board has indicated that they see these objectives as achievable in the next financial year. In the past, this would have had the CIO scrambling to create the required capabilities from nothing, without being able to give any real opinion on whether this is in fact possible. Now, with a clear understanding of the requirements, and a defined list of the capabilities needed to support these requirements, he can very quickly start seeing what is, and what is not, possible, and can use this capability list to start unlocking the value of his IT investment to enable new requirements as they become apparent.