2.10. Frequently Asked Questions
The following Frequently Asked Questions, answered by the author of this book, are designed to both measure your understanding of the concepts presented in this chapter and to assist you with real-life implementation of these concepts. To have your questions about this chapter answered by the author, browse to www.syngress.com/solutions and click on the "Ask the Author" form.
Q: I've got an IT background and all this business information is making my head swim. Isn't there an easier way?
A: I'm assuming that you have a really strong IT background and I'm also assuming you didn't learn everything you know in one sitting. It takes time to learn new skills and these skills might be using a few new brain cells. Take your time, parse out the data into small chunks, and don't move on until you feel like you've got a handle on it all. You can't learn about TCP/IP until you understand binary math, right? You can't develop an application until you understand how to write an if/then loop. Take it one step at a time.
Q: Our company holds long planning retreats to come up with corporate strategy. The information in this chapter makes it seem like it shouldn't take that long.
A: Developing a corporate strategy can be a long, complex, and difficult task. When markets and technologies and customers are changing rapidly, it can be difficult to see the road ahead. So, yes, it can be a long, difficult task for corporate leaders. That said, it's not always that tough. It depends on many different factors including the market you're in, the strengths of your company, the company's position in the marketplace, and more. However, if your company has a strategic plan to which you have access, your job is half done. Creating the IT strategy is just that much easier because you already know the direction the company is headed. Thus, you can develop your IT strategies by using your corporate strategies as your starting point.
Q: I'm still not clear on the difference between a corporate strategy and a business strategy. Can you clarify that for me?
A: Corporate strategy is developed from the top of the organization. It is a vision of where the company is headed, what the company should be (or become). However, companies don't exist in a vacuum. They have to interact with the outside world every day. That outside world is comprised of customers, competitors, changing technology, regulations, and more. When companies have to respond to these outside influences, they must develop business strategies. Business strategies come from the business units or the operations areas and influence corporate strategies. In a sense, they are a unique subset of corporate strategies.
Q: What's the difference between corporate strategies and IT strategies?
A: Corporate strategies set the course for the entire company. They describe where the company as a whole is headed. IT strategies are a subset of corporate strategies. They are, essentially, corporate-level strategies that deal only with the IT area of the business.
Q: What's the difference between business strategies and business IT strategies?
A: Business strategies are developed in response to the external environment. Companies must develop business strategies in order to remain responsive and relevant in the marketplace. Business strategies might involve competing on cost or increasing the level of service based on demands from the market. Business IT strategies also arise as a response to the external market, but are specifically related to IT. This might involve a decision to implement a particular application or use a particular technology platform because of demand in the marketplace. Once these are determined you can create operational plans to guide you through the day-to-day tasks required to accomplish these strategies.
Q: Where can I find out more about creating a strategic IT plan?
A: There are many resources available on strategic planning and almost any one you choose can be applied to IT planning as well. There are books, courses and Web resources available. A good place to start is with well-known, reputable websites such as CIO.com, eWeek.com, ComputerWorld.com, and TechRepublic.com, just to name a few. You can also work with an experienced consultant to assist you in the development of your strategic plan. Sometimes having a person external to the organization can be helpful because they'll approach things with a fresh perspective.