IT strategies today
Today, an IT strategy is a comprehensive plan that outlines specific technologies to be implemented in a company to enable it to achieve its business objectives and stay competitive in the market. A great focus is placed on the possibility to change decisions promptly to adapt to challenges. IT strategies require transformation in response to needs of Business, legislative initiatives, the need to upgrade existing IT systems, new information security requirements, and budget optimization.
Reflecting on the IT expertise of the team of National Settlement Depository (NSD), Moscow Exchange Group, I would like to share my vision of IT strategy development and management. At NSD, IT has a rather high degree of maturity. We have a productive experience in applying robotics and artificial intelligence, which helped us optimize operations, and experience in commercializing the blockchain technology. Our team successfully applies an agile software development methodology, implements microservices, and uses DevOps tools. Besides, NSD uses IT outsourcing on a wide-scale basis, managing a distributed team of several hundred IT professionals.
To develop an IT strategy, a company must have a clearly formulated mission or goal, a business strategy, or the need for IT transformation.
Types of strategies
- Measurable strategy (where the company needs to improve certain parameters, e.g., to speed up time to market, reduce the number of incidents, etc.)
- Collaborative strategy (where the IT strategy goals and performance criteria depend on business goals)
- Common strategy (where the company has a single strategy that covers both needs of IT and Business)
According to the survey conducted by Gartner, a U.S. IT research and advisory firm,13% of the companies surveyed do not have an IT strategy at all, 54% have separate business strategy and IT strategy documents, and the remaining 32% have one strategy document that covers Business and IT.
How to choose an IT strategy
To choose an optimal IT strategy, a company needs to have a clear vision of where it is now and where it wants to be and to define the role IT plays in the company. For example, Gartner categorizes IT functions as follows:
- IT as business service provider;
- IT as business (IT either works together with Business or is Business itself).
IT may also be in one of the following two transient states:
- IT as transformer; and
- IT as global service provider.
CHOOSING AN IT STRATEGY
* Source: Gartner
Thus, if IT positions itself as service provider in the company, then a measurable strategy would be optimal to ensure compliance with the SLA. If IT is part of the company transformation and evolution process or acts as service provider not only within the company, but also externally, a collaborative strategy would be required. If IT is an engine room that drives evolution of the company, being part of Business and generating profit, there is no need to have an IT strategy separate from business strategy.
Dealing with IT strategy shortcomings
The life of an IT strategy is somewhat limited. An IT strategy becomes obsolete fast and it is not always possible to quickly respond to needs of Business. To minimize risks, it is, therefore, required to ensure that the IT strategy is manageable and adaptable as much as possible. It is necessary to have an IT strategy roadmap that describes all initiatives and multiple minor goals, with a clear timeline and the names of those responsible to deliver. The roadmap should be revisited regularly, adding new goals and removing the ones that have become irrelevant. Such an approach would help promptly respond to both changes within the company and global developments.
IT strategy transformation
The strategy should be revised to reflect:
- any changes that affect any of the organization’s strategic metrics (e.g., costs or risks);
- any new principles adopted (e.g., where it is decided that any internal automation solutions have to accommodate the interests of distributed teams); or
- any changes in business goals.
Main stages of the IT strategy process
- IT strategy writing, together with Business
- Setting company’s goals
- Development of a flexible mechanism for IT strategy management
- Company’s strategy transformation, together with Business