Alignment of business and MIS goals has
become a key consideration for most businesses. This is especially true with
technology infrastructure increasingly being viewed as a strategic asset by most
companies. Consequently, information systems department leaders are frequently
called upon to provide a strategic vision for the enterprise which compliments
the company's stated businessobjectives. Understanding and applying the
strategic planning process has become a vital skill for today's technology
leader. This week's column will take a detailed look at this important
Strategic business planning has received considerable thought and
study over the years. It is probably helpful to read some of the recent,
contemporary materials which cover these ideas. Rather than going out and
finding the books, why not read some of the excellent summaries which are
already available on the web? Here is a link list of a few of the better papers
which are clearly worth printing out as a reference:
Template for Information Management Strategic
This highly useful document created by the State of Maryland
provides an explanation of the methods and techniques of strategic planning
The Path of Development of Strategic Information Systems
Written by Roger Clarke, this paper provides an overview of
Michael Porter's competitive strategy theory, and ties these ideas back to MIS
strategic planning. Loaded with important ideas!
Business and I/T Strategic Alignment: New Perspectives and
Written by by Raymond Papp and Jerry Luftman, this paper
describes the results of an important study focused on the interaction between
MIS and the business. Another one worth printing.
Business and IT in Harmony: Enablers and Inhibitors to
Written by Raymond Papp, Jerry Luftman, and Tom Brier, this
paper looks at the same study and details the findings regarding successful
business goal alignment.
A 'Quick & Dirty' Strategic
If you are working in a small to medium sized company you may be
wondering if it is really possible to follow through with a strategic planning
process. The outline below provides a "quick and dirty" approach for creating an
MIS strategic plan for your company, even if you are faced with a small budget.
Regardless of your business size, alignment of business and the MIS objectives
is an exercise which should be performed at least on an annual basis.
- Review and Define Strategic Corporate Goals
Meet with the key
executive leadership to specify a list of the primary business goals for the
next one to three years. These should include any new product introductions,
geographic expansions, new facilities, customer service initiatives, headcount
increases, or modified revenue targets.
- Review and Analyze Current Technology Infrastructure
current state of the LAN, WAN, server, mainframe, PC, and software asset base.
Outline the current strengths and weaknesses. Review any recently announced
product upgrades. Document any obvious standardization which has evolved within
the company since the last technology review.
- Determine Tactical Technology Goals
Create a list of technology goals
for the next one to three years which support the needs of the current business
processes, as well as the infrastructure requirements for the new business
initiatives. These tactical plans might include LAN/WAN expansions or
conversions, internet/intranet implementations, server deployments, major ERP
software upgrades, or additional application development.
- Create a List of Proposed Projects
Based on the findings for the
previous three sections, a list of major technology and application projects
should be developed. These should be broken into tactical projects with defined
time requirements. Each project should be clearly linked to the business and
technology goals it is intended to support. In addition, any other required
projects should be defined which are simply necessary for the the continued
maintenance and evolution of the existing technology infrastructure of the
- Define the Implementation Timeline
The proposed projects should be
put into a realistic time schedule. This schedule is probably best presented in
the form of a gantt chart showing the planned time periods for implementing each
of the defined projects. This proposed project schedule then becomes a key
document for capital and expense budgeting during the upcoming fiscal time
Collecting this information, and then performing the required
strategic brainstorming should involve your top executives, business area
managers, and technology experts. Consider the use of consultants to bring an
outside perspective to the discussions, or to assist in structuring and
facilitating the planning process. Remember that any outside consultants should
be viewed as advisers, not deciders.
A Short Strategic Consideration
During your annual strategic planning process, it is probably
worthwhile to refer to the checklist below. Each item should be reviewed to see
if any policy or procedure changes are required as a result of the newly
identified plans. Each of these items has the potential to be impacted by new
- Review the performance and market plans of you key vendors
- Review your software licensing approach
- Review your asset capitalization/leasing/expensing approach
- Assess your network protocol standards
- Evaluate your current operating system standards
- Evaluate your email standards
- Evaluate you productivity software standards
The key is to end up with a strategic business vision which is backed
up by a supportable implementation plan and reasonable set of technology
standards. All of these results must show a clear linkage back to the strategic
goals and major processes of the business.