It feels like an accepted truism that an organisation’s IT Strategy should absolutely be informed by, aligned to and help enable and deliver the organisation’s Business Strategy. This assumption is of course based on a much bigger and problematic assumption, that a clearly defined, rational, original, coherent, communicated and understood Business Strategy exists. In my experience this clearly defined, rational, original, coherent, communicated and understood thing, that we place so much weight and responsibility upon to inform and guide our other strategies (whether its IT, People, Digital, whatever), normally only partially (as in it might be communicated, understood and coherent, but it might not be rational or original, or some other combination of those attributes) or implicitly exists. What will often exist is a set of organisational memes, catchphrases, myths and stories that masquerade as an implicit strategy within the organisation.
So, what if you are working in an organisation, wanting to create or refresh an IT Strategy, but you find one of the foundational building blocks upon which your IT Strategy needs to rest is either wholly or partially missing?
You have to fill in the blanks. Why?
- No-one else is going to do it for you
- You have a specific and timely need, you have to satisfy yourself and your stakeholders that the IT Strategy you are producing is ‘correct’
- Going through the exercise of attempting to nail down your understanding of the Business Strategy and making the implicit explicit gives an opportunity for your stakeholders to say “no that’s not right” and verbalise and clarify their understanding of the Business Strategy
I’m not saying you have to create the organisation’s Business Strategy for them and i’m certainly not saying you might be best placed or best equipped to do so, but you have to at least create a visible straw-person of what you believe the Business Strategy is to act as a structure around which you can create your IT Strategy. By doing this you can show traceability of the reasoning behind your strategic IT decisions and provoke clarification and (hopefully) clarity from your stakeholders in areas where your straw-person may not be accurate.
In previous Newsletters we’ve touched on a few different techniques you can use to help develop the your straw-person. In my upcoming How to IT Strategy Course we will go into more detail about how to ensure you create a great IT Strategy. You can sign up here for early access to the course when it launches and an early bird discount.
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