Thursday, August 14, 2008

Ten mistakes that will sink a strategic plan

I read an article in SearchCIO about mistakes that can sink a strategic plan.

This is about a tutorial that Alex Cullen, research director at Forrester Research, showed to IT executives during a webinar, a couple of months ago.

Those are the ten mistakes:

1. The plan does not define decisions that inform the strategy
A good strategic plan defines decisions and connects decisions with the factors that will make them successful.

2. The plan is written inside out
The inside-out plan provides a smidgen of business context, then quickly devolves into a list of IT initiatives.

3. The plan doesn't link business needs, IT initiatives and metrics
IT may see the link between its plan and the business, but no one else does. And, because IT initiatives are not linked to metrics, neither IT nor the business knows if the plan is on track or producing the intended results.

4. It's too focused on the business, not enough on IT
Cullen gave an example of a CIO client whose IT operations were subpar: not enough staff, not enough investment in basic infrastructure, weak governance, etc. "But you would never know this from the strategic plan they brought to us," Cullen said.

5. The plan skips over strategic principles
Principles reflect decisions about how IT will operate and deliver.

6. The plan does not build on IT governance
Often strategic plans that make no mention of governance. The result is that business users become frustrated when things don't go their way: If their project is in the strategic plan, then why is it on hold because of some current demand? Good plans connect the dots between strategic initiatives and the IT governance processes.

7. It's too damn long
Focus on business needs and how IT will support them, and what is going to change as a result.

8. It's a laundry list
This plan is just a mindless list of initiatives that range all over the map.

9. It's like a message in a bottle
The plan needs a defined mechanism for reviewing progress against goals and regularly asking the tough questions, including whether the goals are still the right ones for your company.

10. It's an inside job
The plan looks like it's been developed by a handful of people in enterprise architecture. It's not clear who was on the steering committee, or whether the right people were involved.

Cullen summarized: A good plan helps reinforce IT's value. A bad plan undermines it.

I think for it is very important the alignment between IT and the business, always taking care with the role definitions to don't fall into a trap when the company is defining a strategic plan.

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