On my resume you will find I held the position of IT manager for a manufacturing company. In those days, IT tended to be a large mysterious department running main frame computers of which only a certain type of person understood how they operated.
The IT strategy included expensive purchases or long-term leases of equipment. As technology evolved, your IT structure today may simply include a Point of Sale register or small network of servers dedicated to providing anything from tracking orders and inventory to running production hardware.
Gone are the days when IT bought what was available and affordable and the business was made to fit. Today the business is strategized and IT must be able to fill the requirements. In order to have a successful overall company strategy, this planning must be done together.
IT must understand the goals and objectives of the business, both from a short and long term perspective. In-turn business must understand the limitations that IT faces whether it be technical or financial.
So what do these planning sessions look like? From a simplistic approach, if we define business strategy as “the means by which it sets out to achieve its desired objectives” we would answer these questions:
- What do we do?
- For whom do we do “it”?
- How do we excel at doing “it”?
Once answered, the IT strategist can respond with: How will technology help accomplish “it”? IT deals with data and needs to comply with the business objectives. To do so, functional areas like the following may need to be examined:
Inputting data – For example the customer order. The business strategy says, we want customers with mobile access as well as in-store experience.
Availability of the data – The business plan may require that customers have on-line access to status without direct company intervention. Note, that employees will need that same access as well.
Reporting the data– The decision makers will want to have current accounting and metric data readily available.
B2B partnering to share data – It may be decided that in order to excel, direct interaction with vendors and partners is required.
Finally, the requirements for service levels, connectivity and security must be considered. As IT and Business have this one conversation, all these areas should be negotiated and built into the company plan.