What’s Wrong with IT Strategy?

Why does IT Strategy work sometimes and not others?

By definition, every organization has an IT Strategy – some have it clearly articulated and the others are working to one without knowing it.

The question is: Is the IT Strategy producing results?

One can also ask the same question a different way: What must one do to make IT Strategy produce results? Or, perhaps, what is wrong with this IT Strategy?

The strength of an IT Strategy does not come from it being articulated. It lies along its entire lifecycle – from the vision to the underlying policies, framework, process design, including management and control mechanisms, and execution. Each of them must be carefully thought through and designed.

Vision, principles and policies set the direction for an IT Strategy. They are the first step to designing and defining an IT Strategy but, more importantly, they reflect the stakeholders’ beliefs. It is critical that the strategy evolve from these beliefs, otherwise execution will be “half hearted”. It is also absolutely essential to realize that “stakeholders” include both the designers and the executers of this strategy.

A framework provides structure to IT Strategy. It enables rapid, repeatable results by ensuring that we have a complete “picture” and made the key connections. Frameworks might not guarantee success, but they sure help sustain and repeat it. Sometime, they can also salvage a floundering effort by identifying root cause of failure. Without a framework success or failure are a black box. More often than not, success comes from tinkering with an initial failure. Frameworks are invaluable in this tinkering.

Sometimes we forget that IT Strategy is a process not a point in time event. Like any other process, IT Strategy process must also be designed and have an “owner”. It must also be integrated with other processes such as Budget, Portfolio Rationalization, Enterprise Architecture Planning and Systems Implementation. It must also be managed – monitored and controlled – using clearly defined metrics and mechanisms.

Execution makes all the difference between success and failure of an IT Strategy. An IT Strategy might look good on paper. However, implementation is where the rubber meets the road and for the first time we know, for sure, if things are working as planned. As much as strategy drives execution, the reverse is also equally true. A good IT Strategy is one that is built factoring in “practical” considerations or execution “constraints”. Also, on an ongoing basis, real data from execution must be used to “fine tune” strategy.

For the sake of brevity, we cannot delve into all that issues affecting IT Strategy. So let us look at 10 key reasons why IT Strategies fail to, well, sizzle:

Show me the alignment?

IT Strategy and alignment are such very nebulous terms that most people have difficulty defining them in a manner that is actionable. It is fine to say that an IT Strategy is going to align IT with business but it is another matter that most people cannot prove this alignment. Most CIOs cannot say for sure if their IT is aligned with business.

Show me the value?

Another area of concern is whether an IT Strategy will create verifiable and sustainable results. One of the reasons for business leaders’ dissatisfaction with IT in general, and IT Strategy in particular, is that one cannot verify results. We know that IT Alignment creates shareholder value. However, if one cannot verify alignment itself, they cannot expect to be taken seriously, when they claim, that it resulted in shareholder value creation.

What is the ROI of NPV?

It is hard to argue with Peter Drucker, when he says, “If you cannot measure it, you cannot manage it”. However, is measurement is not restricted to financial measures such as NPV. It is not synonymous with “dollar-denominated”.

IT is different. Its value cannot be measured only through NPV or other financial measures. Its measure does not have to be dollar denominated. There are other, better, means of measuring IT Value.

How does this decision impact IT Value?

An IT Strategy is not an end in itself. Organizations’ need to keep it updated. For example, unanticipated events require a response that might not have been considered in the original strategy. It is critical to understand how these decisions, in response to these events, affect the IT Strategy. Also, how do they impact value creation originally identified?

How does this business decision impact IT?

Stuff happens. In a business, it happens frequently and, more often than not, without warning. Speed and agility of response, differentiate businesses that succeed. Quickly, one would like to know the impact of a business event on its IT. Also, how can IT help respond to them – efficiently and effectively.

IT Strategy framework must, seamlessly, traverse the business and IT boundaries to quickly assess the impact of an event across the entire organization. It should allow for quick decision making in response to these events – by assessing the impact on of each decision on shareholder value.

One big leap or baby steps?

Success, often, is a multi step process, especially, in uncharted territory. Our response to an initial stumble, determines if it is a minor glitch or a decisive blow. A good framework, process with a feedback loop and metrics help in this endeavor.

IT Strategy’s success is no different. Our first foray might result in some problems. We should be able to know when we have faltered; if it is a glitch or a blunder; quickly assess the reason for our stumble. We must also be able to quickly devise a response.

Can I learn from my experience?

The classic definition of insanity is: repeating the same steps expecting different results.

Why do IT organizations behave insanely? Because most organizations do not spend the time to analyze, document, incorporate, disseminate or teach their “lessons learnt”. Best practices are not disseminated from one part of the organization to the other. Failures are hidden. New team members are not taught “what works” and “what doesn’t”. Processes are not modified to incorporate lessons learnt.

Your “next” IT Strategy is bound to deliver the same results and this one - nothing less; nothing more.

Is this a steering committee or a team?

Often, IT Strategy is delegated to a steering committee comprised of participants from different functions. Each participant brings excellent, relevant and complementary skills to the table.

However, this is a great idea that fails during execution.

A successful team must have clearly defined roles and responsibilities. Each member of the team must understand how the different pieces of the puzzle fit together. Each member must “deliver” something. Together, then, the team delivers results.

Steering committees result in the right people showing up for all the right meetings. However, they do not focus on role definition. They also fail to assign responsibility for deliverables. More often than not, these committees turn into debating societies where a lot of good stuff is discussed but very little, if anything, of value is ever delivered.

Who will lose their job if this fails?

Accountability is critical to the success of an IT Strategy. One can create a very “good” IT Strategy that either stays on the shelf or fails miserably when executed. Till success or failure is linked to executive compensation and/or career, such strategies and/or failures will continue to occur.

Are we in compliance?

IT standards are a critical enabler of IT Strategy because they help lower cost of operations. Organizations invest in standards teams that take great pains in defining standards. Often, IT Strategy process is not linked to a compliance process. Hence, projects that do not adhere to technical standards get implemented. Thus a great IT Strategy results in higher than desirable cost of operations.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. However, addressing these will take us many steps closer to the solution.

About the Author:

Sourabh Hajela is a management consultant and trainer with over20 years of experience creating shareholder value for his Fortune 50 clients. His consulting practice is focused on IT strategy, alignment and ROI. For more information, please visit http://www.startsmarts.com/. Or feel free to contact Sourabh at Sourabh.Hajela@StartSmartS.com

Related Categories

Related Topics

Related Articles

7 Steps to Create an IT Strategy

This paper describes seven steps to creating a strategic plan for information technology.

8 Step IT Strategic Planning & Governance Process

 This presentation will provide you with an understanding of the IT Strategic Planning & Governance creation processes, disciplines and tools

A Framework for Business IT Alignment in Enterprise Architecture

This paper proposes an Enterprise Architecture framework and tool to check business IT alignment along the multiple levels of an enterprise model.

A Guide to IT Management Methodology

 This is a guide to Outcome Management, an IT Planning and Management Methodology of the Canadian Government.

A New Model for Information Systems Success

This paper evaluates the DeLone and McLean model of Information Systems Success, proposes a "3-D" extension to the model, and, proposes further research to perfect their proposed model. 

Aligning IT with Business

 This presentation discusses business it alignment - what is it? why is it important? how to achieve it?

Bridging the Business and IT Strategy Gap

This one page poster summarizes the business value creation relationships - how to create business value? who does what in creating business value? how is everything connected - from business to IT and everything in between. This is an excellent reso...

Business IT Alignment and the Agile Enterprise

This paper introduces a framework for enterprise architecture for business IT alignment with organizational transformation.

Business IT Alignment Through a Shared C-Suite Vision for IT

Can the CEO, CFO, CMO, CPO, and the CIO envision the same future for the information technology capability of the organization? Is it possible? Is it necessary? Does it help? The authors present a framework to make this shared vision for IT possible...

Defending the IT Budget

A very good case study on running it like a business, aligning business with IT and defending the IT budget on value not cost!

Designing a Digital Future

 What is of value in Networking and Information Technology? This report can help devise your own future vision for IT and create an IT Strategy for your organization.

Enablers and Inhibitors of SISP

This paper presents a model of interrelationships between inhibitors and enablers of Strategic Information Systems Planning (SISP) and reports on a pilot case study that investigated enablers and inhibitors of SISP in a large Korean corporation. The...

Enabling the Strategy Focused Organization

Is IT Value compromised because of the strained relationship between business and IT? How can the CIO overcome this challenge?

Enterprise Architecture for Business-IT Alignment

This paper presents an enterprise architecture methodology - Systemic Enterprise Architecture Methodology (SEAM) - for business it alignment. 

Enterprise Information Systems Strategy and Planning

This paper proposes a framework for the development of information systems strategies and plans driven by business objectives and strategies. It provides an integrated framework for the development of technology architectures and business processes ...

How Can IT Enable Business Success?

This excellent presentation by a CIO provides a roadmap for IT success - clear undestanding of business needs, identify IT capability to meet those needs, seek appropriate level of funding for IT, and use IT to deliver business results consistently.

How to Build a World Class IT Strategy?

This presentation discusses the process to build a world class Information Technology Strategy.

Information Technology for Strategic, Competitive Advantage

 This presentation provides the connection between corporate or business strategy and Information Technology Strategy.

Information Technology Investment Management Framework

 Information Technology Capital Planning and Investment Control (CPIC) Guide provides an in-depth discussion on an Information Technology Investment Management framework.

Information Technology IT Strategy Triangle

 A simple framework to understand the relationship between business strategy, organizational strategy and IT strategy.

Information Technology Strategic Plan (State of California)

This information technology strategic plan can be used as a template to create your own.

Information Technology Strategic Plan Sample (Wisconsin)

Information Technology Strategic Plan sample (Wisconsin) provides a good template to build an IT Strategy.

Information Technology Strategic Plan Sample (Wyoming)

Information Technology Strategic Plan sample (Wyoming) provides a good template to build an IT Strategy.

Information Technology Strategic Planning Guide

 This planning methodology guide explains the basic steps to perform IT strategic planning.

Information Technology Strategy and Plan Example

This IT Strategy example provides guidance on envisioning a future IT capability to enable business value. There is good discussion on IT vision, goals, and guiding principles, and an operating plan for IT. (50+ pages)

Integrating Strategy and Law

This paper presents a comprehensive integrated model of law and strategy and affirmatively answers the question: is legal astuteness a valuable managerial capability?

Introduction to Economic Value Added (EVA) Framework

 This paper explains in depth the Economic Value Added (EVA) framework, its proper use and compares the framework to other value measurement frameworks.

Introduction to IT Strategy

This presentation provides an excellent introduction to information technology strategy and planning. What is IT Strategy? Why is IT Strategy important? What are the steps in creating an IT Strategic Plan? Who should be involved in creating an IT Pla...

IT Delivery Gap

 This presentation discusses performance assessment to determine and plug the it delivery gap i.e. the promise of strategy not being fulfilled by execution.

IT Modernization Vision and Strategy

This case study describes the information technology strategy used to modernize a huge government bureaucracy - an excellent example of identifying opportunities along specific areas of an organization or domain and creating a roadmap for change.

IT Progress Report and Strategic Plan

This report outlines the current state of IT, provides information for stakeholders to make informed decisions about significant investments in technology - "this is a report card of accountability to our stakeholders" - and, details how technology i...

IT Strategic Plan Example

This information technology strategy example provides a glimpse into the business drivers influencing information technology investment decisions and how a new operating model for IT could address them to create value. 

IT Strategy Best Practices

This presentation, given by a practitioner, provides invaluable, practical insights gained from experience implementing IT strategy in multiple organizations. Excellent tips and tricks that will be helpful to anyone engaged in IT strategy, especially...

IT Strategy Creation and Implementation

This paper presents a definition, process and methodology for IT Strategy.

IT Strategy Framework

This presentation provides an excellent overview of IT Strategy with a focus on the need to develop one: create shareholder value by aligning IT investments with business needs. It introduces a framework for IT Strategy geared towards business IT ali...

Managing IT for Value and Getting Results

 This presentation discusses best practices to manage information technology for value.

Managing The Application Portfolio

This presentation discusses managing the application portfolio, IT resources and investments.

Measure Your Business IT Alignment

This paper discusses using the Capability Maturity Model to measure business it alignment.

Measuring Performance and Demonstrating Results of Information Technology Investments

This guide presents a framework to evaluate, select and fund information technology investments to maximize measurable performance and demonstrate business results.

Performance-Based Earned Value (PBEVSM)

 This paper describes the Performance-Based Earned Value framework  (PBEVSM) and its benefits.

Strategic Information Systems Planning (SISP)

 This research examines the key aspect of Strategic information systems planning (SISP) in the changing business scenario.

Strategic Planning for Technology Investments

 This article describes the factors to consider in developing an IT Strategic plan to maximize the returns of technology investments.

The CFO’s View on Measuring IT Value

This report explores how CFOs/finance departments measure the value of IT investments and return on ongoing IT spending.

The IT Cost Reduction Playbook

This IT Cost optimization guide provides ideas to achieve "Rapid, Radical & Sustainable IT Cost Improvements"

Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) Case Study Computing Models

 This paper presents a research study to evaluate six computing models using Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) framework.

What are we Aligning?

This paper reviews the key business IT alignment models and frameworks and "suggests that some models of alignment could be strengthened by considering alternatives to this four domain model. Drawing on other work on the dynamics of human-technologi...

What Helps Business IT Alignment?

The author's research hints at three things with business it alignment: 1) alignment improves organizational performance 2) formal organizational structure alignment does not help 3) informal organizational alignment does have a positive impact!

Why is Business IT Alignment So Difficult?

CIOs have been under pressure to create value from IT and the usual answer to that problem: business IT alignment. The authors argue that this is easier said than done. Not because there is a problem identifying what to do - aka "IT strategy" - but t...

Why Strategic Vision Fails to Deliver?

This article explores some of the reasons that might explain why so many companies struggle to achieve their strategic vision. It concludes that for many the answer lies in the quality of the strategic management processes used.

Posted on 05/18/2009 by

What’s Wrong with IT Strategy? author sourabhhajela



For ThoughtLeader

CIO Index

Our Focus is On Your Agenda

CIO Index is the world's largest professional network for CIOs - of the CIO, for the CIO, by the CIO. 

Over 75,000 CIOs and other IT Executives use CIO Index to Learn, Network and Share.


Cioindex, Inc.

  • (+1) 800-309-3550
  • Mon - Fri 9:00am - 5:00 pm
  • 375 North Stephanie St., Ste 1411, Henderson, NV 89014