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Six Reasons Why Your IT Strategy Will Fail

Setting a strategy is one thing, implementing it is something else entirely

Businessman Ground Cut from Beneath Him Trap PitfallIf you were able to cast your eye over the hundreds of carefully honed presentations labelled “2015 strategy” that senior managers have been toting round the world’s offices in the past few months, at least one common denominator would stand out: they would all use technology to find some kind of competitive advantage.

Technology now plays a central role in pretty much every major business decision. So much so, that some of the skills and knowledge that were once the preserve of IT executives have now become an essential leadership competency for all managers.

This doesn’t mean that the IT function has become redundant. Far from it; its core role has been, and will continue to be, to help the enterprise get as much value as possible from technology, but it does presage a change for how IT must work everyone else.

Six Common Barriers to the Implementation of IT Strategy

All this puts pressure on the CIO and the senior IT team to get their own IT strategy right. And, once they’ve done that, to implement it properly.

Implementation is often far harder than writing the strategy and getting it approved by a senior team. In fact, CEB analysis shows that one-third of an IT strategy’s value is lost during execution.

Conversations with leading CIOs at organizations worldwide repeatedly highlighted six common barriers to implementing an IT strategy. Beyond technologies and internal IT barriers, several factors over which the IT function has little or no control can play havoc with the plan.

  1. Prioritization: Lack of agreement on the relative importance of priorities in the department and misalignment between the importance of a priority and the time allocated to it.

  2. Understanding: Leaders, managers, and staff lack clarity on their role and the mandate they have to implement any strategic priority. In a perfect world, all staff working toward a given strategic goal would make exactly the same decision in any given situation as whomever owns the strategy. In the messier real world, ensuring each employee is clear about their job should at least stop anyone unintentionally derailing the strategy.

  3. Technology and vendors: Poor availability or performance of technologies or technology vendors that support the priority.

  4. Talent: Limited staff numbers and/or staff that lack the necessary skills, time, or expertise to support the priority.

  5. Organizational support: Resistance or inattention toward the priority from supporting functions and partners.

  6. Culture: Organizational perceptions, assumptions, and beliefs that deter employees from innovating and collaborating to achieve this priority.

The secret to overcoming all these barriers is fairly straightforward (at least to write; it’s much harder to do): don’t wait for cracks to show up in your strategic plans, start looking for barriers before you begin any work on the plan.

And the best way to identify barriers is to ask for direct, quantifiable feedback from the teams that are actually working on the initiatives: frontline IT staff.


More On…

  • Download CEB’s IT Strategy on a Page template to learn the key components of effective and concise IT strategy communication.
  • CEB CIO members can use the Strategy Execution Dashboard, a light-weight diagnostic tool to identify which of your strategic priorities are at risk, and why.

    The diagnostic will gather feedback from frontline IT staff to give you advance warning about 33 barriers within these six categories.


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