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The 7 Attributes All Strategic Plans Should Have

Provide a compelling vision and a realistic set of tasks for achieving it. Don't just update last year's plan

Brainstorming Strategy Setting Business Concepts WhiteboardIn common with most other corporate functions (Procurement and Marketing to name two), IT strategic planning season is here.

A well-written IT strategic plan points the function in the right direction and ensures that the firm’s technology investments are well-spent. The problem is that most managers outside IT think this doesn’t happen very often: less than a quarter of business leaders think IT strategic planning is effective or clear.

In reviewing hundreds of IT strategic plans, CEB identified seven attributes that make for a good one.

Seven Attributes

By covering the seven attributes, you’ll be doing more than updating last year’s plan or simply “ticking the boxes,” but creating clear goals with tangible impact.

  1. Truly strategic (not tactical): The best strategic plans create a vision to provide a “north star” that is a stretch for the IT team but also attainable. This creates a focus for the underlying goals, initiatives, and actions of the plan.

  2. Advances corporate strategy: Different functional leaders can pull IT strategic plans in different directions. IT strategy must “cut through the noise” to focus on achieving enterprise goals, rather than business unit level goals, and create transparency with stakeholders for buy-in.

  3. Sets real priorities: Rather than spreading resources across a long list of initiatives; the best IT strategies allocate disproportionate resources to the highest priorities to ensure success.

  4. Defines metrics: Well-designed goals and metrics guide managers in making the right short-term decisions that align the long-term strategy. Unclear – or absent – metrics cause conflicting actions, confusion, and can hurt employee motivation.

  5. Links to operations: IT must clearly define operational initiatives to achieve the goals defined in the strategic plan. Poorly articulated initiatives can lead the organization to overinvest in ill-advised ventures or underinvest in prudent ones.

    The best IT organizations limit the number of initiatives in their plans, as listing too many can create confusion and lead to things like employees leaving, confused customers and shareholders, and rising costs).

  6. Establishes accountability: Without clear accountability for goals, IT strategic plans are rarely enacted. Senior IT managers should segment the messages they communicate for different groups of stakeholders, and also explain to key stakeholders how they are accountable for their part of the strategy.

  7. Inspires stakeholders: The best IT organizations use compelling narrative and easy-to-interpret graphics to explain the situation and the initiatives that they think will help the firm make the most of that situation. They also encourage employees to work hard on those initiatives by indicating the consequences if the strategic goals are not achieved.

More On…

  • IT Strategic Planning

    Learn more about IT strategic planning, and take a quiz to test your strategic planning knowledge.

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