You already know how important information technology is to your business. You’ve got a website that pushes your brand and maybe even sells your products; you’ve got an internal network that connects all of your employees to each other and the documents they need; you’ve got company email to manage, and maybe a bunch of cellphones and BlackBerrys to keep track of; you’ve got security cameras, passwords, log-ins and keycards; and you’ve got employee management systems covering attendance, payroll, benefits and more. If any of these fails, you’ve also got a big problem.
IT will surely find its way into many more business functions in the coming years. You know that organizations around the world have taken to online social networks to promote their brands and engage and win customers. And the Canadian Payroll Association predicts that organizations will use advanced software to take care of collecting, storing and analyzing data from across their operations, freeing payroll and human resources professionals to take on more strategic roles.
But, despite its importance, it seems that many higher-ups still see IT as the “back-end” of a certain function, and not something that requires a vision all its own, or a place at the directors’ table.
The Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants (CICA) suggests that:
“Many small and medium enterprises (SMEs) have yet to understand the importance and benefits to their business of IT Strategic Planning. Accordingly, SME management often makes ad hoc investments in IT in response to changing market trends or the advice of technical suppliers. As a result, limited financial resources may not be spent on the top priorities. Urgent IT needs may also be required at a time when the company is cash-strapped or had planned on spending its limited funds on other business initiatives.”
The institute recommends developing an IT strategy even if the organization hasn’t fully developed a general strategic business plan, since developing the two plans together should align priorities and lead to stronger back- and front-ends.
Consider these advantages:
- Alignment among business objectives, IT objectives and risk management, which ensures that IT has enough money to do what it needs to do to support the business
- IT has the organization, services, application portfolios, technologies, competencies, processes and methodologies required to maximize its contribution to the organization’s strategic business plan
- Top management are aware of current IT weaknesses, which must be addressed in order for the organization to continue meeting regulatory, industry and customer needs effectively, as well as the security and continuity of its IT infrastructure
- Streamlined operations via productivity gains
- A clear roadmap for incorporating future needs, challenges and opportunities
See the CICA’s IT Strategic Planning for SMEs (in PDF) for case studies of companies that took on the challenge of developing an IT strategy and let it inform their general direction.
First Reference Human Resources and Internal Controls Compliance Editor
First Reference considers strategic IT planning so important that it is the very first chapter in Information Technology PolicyPro (ITPP). It’s fair to say that all of ITPP is about planning, but chapter 1 in particular covers strategic planning, tactical planning, implementation planning, site planning, risk assessment and risk management with respect to information technology and resources.