Whether you are a CEO, CIO, IT employee, or working outside of IT, you have some level of understanding of your organization’s strategy. At least that’s what I believe. But how much do you understand? To find out we’re conducting research across the enterprise to see how well employees understand business strategy and whether they have any idea about the IT strategy or even the IT architecture strategy.
As a reader of this blog, I know you are an innovative thinker and business-savvy — I’m hoping you will please take five minutes now or later today to help out our research by taking part in this survey, no matter where you work or what your role is. Even if you cannot take the survey, you can still help by sharing a link to this post with friends, colleagues, and associates who you think may be interested in the results.
The survey examines a number of aspects of business and IT strategy, such as:
How well defined and understood is the business & IT strategy?
How well understood are the measures of strategy success?
What time horizons are most common for strategic planning?
Frequency of planning updates
The perception of IT (from inside IT and from outside IT)
One of my current research projects is to define how EA teams capture and express business strategy. Early in the process I am finding a lot of variation in how organizations articulate strategy. In my preliminary interviews I have heard three basic definitions of strategy:
As CEOs put IT budgets under pressure year after year, CIOs and their teams focus on balancing money spent on running the business (RTB) versus money spent on growing the business (GTB). By decreasing the percentage of their budget spent on maintenance and ongoing operations (RTB), they aim to have a greater share of their budget to spend on projects that grow the business. In the best IT organizations, the ratio can sometimes approach 50:50 — however, a more typical ratio is 70% RTB and 30% GTB.
Unfortunately, such practices suggest an incremental budget cycle — one that looks at the prior year’s spend to determine the next year’s budget. While this may be appropriate for the RTB portion of the IT budget, it is far from ideal for the GTB portion. Incremental budgeting for GTB results in enormous tradeoffs being made as part of the IT governance process, with steering committees making decisions on which projects can be funded based upon the IT and business strategy. Anyone from outside of IT who has worked through IT governance committees understands just how challenging that process can be. And the ultimate result of such tradeoffs is that sometimes valuable projects go unfunded or shadow-IT projects spring up to avoid the process altogether.
Many companies are at the height of the IT strategic-planning season. For some, this is an annual ritual tied to the budgeting process. For others, this is part of a long-range planning process, with an annual review to check on progress. Still other CIOs are approaching the development of an IT strategy as an integral part of an ever-evolving business strategy, with regular adjustments as the business units flex and respond to market changes. Whatever your perspective, it’s apparent that in the past executives outside of IT have given scant attention to the machinations of the IT strategy — but this is surely changing.
The operational performance of any business unit is now so heavily dependent upon the effective and efficient deployment of appropriate technology that planning a business strategy without also planning technology strategy is like planning to win Formula One without any telemetry. You can’t even get to the starting grid.