We covered a lot of ground in this chapter. For some of you, it might be old hat. For others, it might be new and a bit confusing. If this is all very new to you, take time to come back and read this chapter again later, after the dust has settled. It will begin to come into focus if you take your time and digest it in small segments. Perhaps reading this summary will tie it all together for you.
It's more important than ever before that IT departments contribute to corporate success. The use of technology itself no longer provides a competitive advantage by default. Companies are looking for IT departments to contribute to the forward progress of the company. The best way that can happen is if the efforts of the IT department are aligned with corporate strategies and objectives. A notable benefit from this type of alignment is that your projects and your department are more likely to gain much needed executive support if your efforts are contributing to the greater good of the company. If in that process you can also find a way to extend or expand corporate strategies through IT efforts, you're even better off. That's a tall order but if you don't look for it, you'll certainly never find it.
It may take some work to figure out what your company's strategy isit's not always written down, it's not always openly discussed. In this chapter, we provided you with some tools you can use to research and reverse engineer corporate strategy if you have to. Corporate strategies (and IT strategies as well) are impacted by what's going on in the external market place. Strategies that originate from these external drivers are often called business strategies. The IT department may or may not have business strategies, but it's worth looking at because IT is often impacted by what's happening in the broader technology market and by what's happening with vendors, customers and competitors.
Once you've got some idea what the corporate strategy is, you can begin to develop your IT strategies. We talked about various methods people use to begin to formulate ideas for strategies including evaluating core competencies, doing a SWOT analysis and looking at trends. This is not an exhaustive review, but a good starting point. And, if you already have a good idea of what your IT strategies should be and how they align with corporate strategies, you can use those tools to test, evaluate, or strengthen your thoughts.
After you've come up with your thoughts and ideas, you'll need to organize those ideas. In this chapter we provided tools for you to begin doing that including the risk/reward grid. We also discussed the importance of talking about priorities with your boss or senior management to make sure everyone is making the same assumptions about priorities. We also discussed four keywords you can use in evaluating ideas: logical, feasible, desirable, and affordable. You can add to or subtract from this list to suit your needs, but this is a good start.
Once you've developed your prioritized list of strategies or objectives, you have to find a way to translate that into reality. Strategies tell you where you're headed; next you have to determine how you'll get there. We talked about ways of assessing your current IT environment and mapping that to your prioritized objectives. That helps you sort out where current activities belong in your new framework. Finally, we discussed methods for taking all of that and creating an operational roadmap that can be used on a daily or weekly basis to keep you on track. It would be a shame to expend so much effort on creating a well-aligned strategy only to have the operations drive off in a different direction.
If this whole topic is new to you, it might seem like a tall order on top of everything else you have to do. But, to paraphrase Steven Covey, if you don't spend time on important, non-urgent planning activities, you'll sell yourself and your department short. Learning to plan and strategize is an important part of being effective in the business world and to be effective as an IT project manager. Hopefully now you have a few new tools to help you on your way.