A question that is often posed to CIOs is: “What is our technology strategy?” Usually, this question is tied to a specified technology area, such as, “What is our Cloud strategy? What is our IoT strategy? What is our SDN strategy? What is our AIOps/DevOps strategy?”
These questions, by themselves, seem perfectly reasonable but there is a lot to unpack with any question concerning the strategic direction of the IT organization with regards to introducing, deploying, adopting, and operationalizing a “new to you” technology. Yes, the question seems simple but there are many more complicated questions behind it. They usually come in the form of:
- How much?
- What products/platforms?
- Who? (i.e., staffing, training, hiring)
The follow up questions are necessary, as they facilitate a dialog that will be key to successful and sustainable deployment of any new technology. However, these questions are usually far from simple and, unfortunately, they are often politically charged grenades being tossed over the wall by people with alternate agendas.
That’s the reality and it can impede progress but my philosophy here is that you focus where you can effect change and follow a process where you can manage and influence the political overhead. Tackling the right questions, at the appropriate time.
Take it from the top
It is tempting for people to respond to pressures for a new technology by starting with the “What? When? and Who?” questions but, in my opinion, that is putting the cart before the horse. I think that the most important questions are the “Why” questions, as in why would we do this?
Is there a need being clearly addressed? Is there a clearly defined use case? Will the business benefit in some way? And can you measure that benefit in terms of opportunity gains or losses?
If you think about this line of questions then it becomes obvious that there are a few key elements that need to be addressed before you get into talking about the “why” of an adoption strategy for a specific technology. You need an overall technology strategy that is directly aligned with business drivers and desired outcomes, which means you have to dig into the business strategy.
It is more than just restating the business drivers; it is being able to take those drivers and derive a set of technology principles that are tied to drivers and enable achieving desired outcomes. These principles should be specific and they should be agnostic with regards to specific technologies, platforms, or products.
Bottom line, the goal here is to be able to articulate the business drivers, understand the need, and define a set of principles that can be used to evaluate if a new technology will have a positive impact to the business.
Define the strategy
Only when you can answer the question “Why are we doing this?” can you embark on defining the strategy. The technology strategy has multiple components. The first step is to assess readiness in terms of the organizations ability to execute the strategy.
The next step is defining the reference architecture. A reference architecture in no way, shape, or form should identify specific vendors or products. It is a technology architecture that brings forward the technology principles, defines interactions with other architectures, identifies dependencies, and communicates constraints.
With a reference architecture properly defined, the IT organization can then focus attention on aligning with key stakeholders, as identified with the interactions captured by the technology architecture and start developing the roadmap. It is at this point that we can answer the “When are we doing this?” question.
Something we should call out here is that the technology strategic plan is not a one time “event” that documents a stated direction at some arbitrary point in time. It is an ongoing process that is continuously evolving, and we need to give it proper care and feeding. Always being mindful of how the technology plan ties back into the business strategy.
Plan the work, work the plan
If there is anything that the reader takes away from this discussion, then let it be this: choosing a vendor or product before developing the technology strategy is a recipe for failure. You need to ensure you understand how your choices map to the business and technology strategies before you can start putting together the technology plan.
NetCraftsmen’s Approach to Enterprise Strategic Planning (ESP)
NetCraftsmen understands that the IT function in every business is a critical component to long-term success in the current marketplace. This is why we created the ESP program as part of our Craftsmen Assurance offering. With the ESP program, our consultants work with our customers to:
- Align IT initiatives with business strategies, vision, and goals
- Leverage our Lifecycle Services program to evaluate current state, at an architecture level
- Support our customer’s future state vision by formulating a long-term IT strategy roadmap, which not only captures where you are going but also lays out the optimal path to get there
Information Technology (IT) is a critical function in the enterprise. It is not only a supporting function but a core element of emerging business models. Even if your organization doesn’t consider itself a “tech” company, you are likely leveraging technology to fundamentally support how you do business in today’s marketplace. Aligning your technology strategy with your business strategy is critical for your organization’s growth and success.