2.7. Developing Your IT Operational Roadmap
Once you have your IT strategies and your project inventory in hand, you can develop your operational roadmapyour ops plan. This is where you identify how IT will achieve both corporate and IT strategic objectives.
The first step is to map each project that is either slated to start soon or is already underway to your corporate and business IT plans. If a project can't be mapped to defined strategies, it might not be an appropriate project to work on. You'll need to take a hard look at those projects to determine if they should be continued to completion, put on hold, or scrapped altogether. While most of us are reluctant to just take a project and dump it in the virtual trashcan, it's sometimes the only rational choice once you've taken an objective look at your strategic objectives and your current efforts. With limited time and resources, it's critical to ensure that each project helps move you forward toward your strategic objectivesor better yet, pushes your strategic objectives into a new realm altogether. Dead or drifting projects create organizational drag that slow the company (and your department) down, losing precious competitive advantage.
Depending on the organization, some non-conforming projects are implemented because of political pressure, because of favors promised or owed to key clients, or because of personal aspirations (and many other crazy reasons). By non-conforming, we mean that these projects came from or live somewhere out in left field and they do not now, nor have they ever supported the ongoing mission of the IT department or company. Certainly after reading and digesting the information in this chapter, you may be looking with fresh eyes at your IT projects. In many companies, there are projects that just don't make sense. If they can be re-aligned to support business objectives, they might be worth completing. If not, scrap the project. If it's a political minefield, you may be able to use all the data you've collected and prepared in this chapter and present it to those with the political influence. Quite often, logic and finances trump politics (often, but not always).
After gaining agreement on project priorities, you can develop your operational plan. If you also took time to categorize your current and proposed projects, you have an excellent feel for all the work currently expected of the IT department. At this point, you can put all of this into a plan that describes how you'll achieve these results. If you're not sure how to develop this plan, there are numerous books, websites and articles available to you. However, this plan should include all current and proposed projects as well as ongoing operational/maintenance activities. Though our focus is on IT projects, we all know that the day-to-day problems, minor and major crises, and unexpected issues have to be dealt with. An operations plan should recognize and account for these activities along with the operational and strategic elements. The plan should identify existing IT resources including staff (and staff expertise), equipment and funding (budget). It should describe the processes you'll use to manage the day-to-day activities and projects. It should be a useful document you can use on a daily basis to keep you on track when all the forces of the universe seem to be pulling you in opposing directions.