Don’t Blow It: Executing IT Strategy

I rarely see an organization that isn’t full of great systems ideas.
In fact, I often see organizations that have great ideas and reasonable systems strategies to support them.  That said, what I also see plenty of are organizations that haven’t been able to execute their IT strategy.  And more often than not, I see smart folks in IT and the businesses that are capable of executing these plans.  And under a new way of thinking that I dub “IT Strategy Execution,” I believe they can execute for their organization.

Typical “Execution” issues I see:

“Our IT team has great trouble in executing our key business initiatives on time, in budget and on quality.”

“We had 14 IT projects scheduled to complete this year, but we only completed six of the projects.”

“Our IT projects continue to go beyond the forecasted completion dates.  We are losing credibility with the business and with our CIO.”

“My mid-level IT managers don’t have the right managerial skills to execute the plan my business is expecting.  They are missing the link between the plan and execution of it.”

“I have plenty of money in my IT budget, but my problem is that my IT team isn’t executing all the work that I have approved in the plan.”

“Ideas aren’t our problem–we have lots of great ones. We just can’t make those great ideas happen.”

“We have more initiatives than we can handle.  Soon our business is going to go do their own thing.”

“It takes 10 e-mails to get a meeting and 10 meetings to get a decision. It’s a wonder we make any progress at all.”

“Most of our initiatives are never fully implemented–they get worked on but just stay in limbo until they become obsolete.”

“At the end of the day, we reward firefighting.”

IT must have a greater impact on the business. For IT to be a more relevant and strategic part of the business, IT must execute near flawlessly.   

IT Strategy Execution Approach

Every organization is different. That said, there are some specific techniques that can and should encompass all organizations. So here’s the more simple view of what IT Strategy Execution is:

  • Strategic Management Tools & Processes. Simple dashboard approach of key initiatives and prioritization processes; centered on delivery of tasks/initiatives on schedule, in budget and on quality (been proven effective within executive management teams at over 60 organizations).
  • Facilitation Techniques. You have smart folks that are capable of doing your project work.  We are often asked to mentor IT and the business to deliver the projects with their expected business benefit.
  • Decision Making. Clear decisions with priorities. Clear IT resource allocation based on priorities–and adjust to relevant changes as they arise.  
  • Accountability for Results. Bring accountability to both the IT team and the business owners with whom they are working.
  • When these tools and techniques are effectively employed, the results are nothing short of spectacular:
  • Save money and make money by maximizing return/impact on your investment in IT.
  • Projects deliver their expected business benefit.
  • Faster and more predictable project completion (helping you gain more credibility for the IT organization).
  • Complete more projects with a more engaged and effective IT team.

I’ll be writing several articles throughout 2009 to discuss IT Strategy Execution tools and techniques to help solve these problems.  These articles will include real-life stories of IT Strategy Execution tools and techniques.  

As you read through these articles, ask yourself: “How can I make that positive difference via IT Strategy Execution for my organization?” You’ll have some tools and techniques to address those opportunities–it will be up to you to make that difference.

Jay Bahel is CIO Services Solution Group Leader for Project Leadership Associates in Chicago and a former IT executive with the Brunswick Corporation.

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