Wirth (2009) defines the five main ingredients included in a general strategic plan for an organization: (a) mission, (b) positioning paper, (c) strategy, (d) vision and (e) performance measures. IT projects usually have a (a) project charter, (b) project scope, (c) management plan which includes the work breakdown structure (WBS), staffing management plan, resource calendar, and (d) a final assessment report is written at the end of the project to determine what went right and what went wrong. This paper will review the similarities and differences between what is needed for a general strategic plan and what is needed for an Information Technology (IT) strategic plan. IT strategic plans are expected to be much more complicated.
General Strategic Plan
The five ingredients for a strategic plan must be written in the present tense but the text must reflect the desired result in the future. (Wolfe, 2009, enTarga). (a) The mission statement is not a long complicated document but it is important for management and employees to have in order to keep a focus on the organization’s purpose. It should be written in an easy, understandable vocabulary and explain the reason for the organization. (b) The positioning statement could be like many other organizations with the same general mission but that is not what is needed in this document. The positioning statement needs to explain how the organization and their mission are unique from others. (c) The strategy is the practical reflection of the two above documents and the way that the goal will be achieved. The strategy must be carefully designed and written in order to represent the steps to be taken so the organization can change from its present state to the desired state.
For example maybe a new type of project has been accepted or if an outdated technology is being scrapped so it can be replaced by the most recent technology. Wirth (2009) explained that there may be a big distance between the current state and the desired state of an organization; in that case he suggests concentrating on the “foundational issues and those strategies that make the greatest contribution for closing the gap.” (d) The vision statement can be more difficult to write because it needs to relay what the organization wants to stand for. It must reflect the personal organizational culture as well as the mission, position, and strategy. (e) Performance measures are those tools that can be used to measure the success (or failures) during the process of the project. Adhering to the budget is a common measure but usually each type of project will have some unique measurement tools. If an important part of the mission is customer satisfaction then a survey of customers’ opinions would be useful as a tool.
IT Strategic Plan
(a) A project charter needs to include all the stakeholders, often a vice president or person in high management is designated to be the project sponsor. The project sponsor signs off on the charter which should include the purpose, the description, objectives and the expected benefits. The funding source is identified and the major deliverables are listed along with their acceptance criteria and the milestone schedule. When milestones are met there are people responsible for accepting the milestone objective and they are identified in the project charter. (b) The project scope is more detailed than the charter. The scope of the project and the customer requirements are described. A statement of the work is included with the project deliverables (or objectives) listed along with the acceptance criteria. The WBS is included along with the number, the description, the employee responsible and the deliverables.
Project boundaries and assumptions are delineated. It is very important to include in the scope the risks and constraints that have been defined. Marchewka (2010) developed a way to manage risks because overruns in time and money on IT projects happen so easily. During a project changes take place that a project manager (PM) cannot control perhaps resource cost or availability can slow or finish off a project. The project sponsor also has to sign off on the project scope documentation. (c) The management plan is the largest document and it includes the work breakdown structure (WBS), staffing management plan, resource calendar. The most efficient way is to keep track of the project on a software application such as Microsoft Project™.
The management project applications with Gantt graphing are the easiest to make adjustments on, for example if an order will be delivered late or the calendar has to change. The Gantt graph can easily be compared to the Critical Path Graph so that the PM can identify ways to keep the project on target. (d) The final assessment report is written at the end of the project to determine what went right and what went wrong. The meeting to assess the project should be attended by the PM and the involved in employees. The next project will go more smoothly when the problems at the end of a recently finished project.
An IT strategic plan is crucial; it must be integrated with the business plan and it should be updated when appropriate (Ireland, 2011, 4). Ireland (2011) suggests setting a practical and useful Tactical Path which will take the plan from the present capacity to the Strategic Target (the goal) (63). This is easier said than done because no matter how carefully a project is planned not all variables can be predicted.
The strategic plan described by Wirth (2009) has a more general purpose than an IT project’s strategic plan. An IT strategic plan needs to be carefully planned. It addresses each step of a project and organizes the process in order to make sure the customer receives the deliverables in good shape and on time. The employees involved and their schedules are included as well as the resources needed and when they will be available. The IT strategic plan has to work with other departments in a company or organization such as the accounts payable and the human resources department. An organizational strategic plan describes the general purpose of an organization and does not have to be reviewed very often, but the IT strategic plan can make or break a project which affects profits (or losses).
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Cleland, D. I., & Ireland, L. R. (2006). Project Management: Strategic Design And Implementation. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Companies.
Ireland Jr., T. S. (2011). How to write a great information strategic plan and thrill your CEO. www.createspace.com: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.
Marchewka, Jack T. (2010) A Framework for Identifying and Understanding Risks in Information Technology Projects. Journal of International Technology and Information Management, (19)1, n.a., Retrieved from www.questia.com
Wirth, R. A. (2009 July 19) enTarga Strategic planning for the business of the future. enTarga.com Retrieved from http://www.entarga.com/stratplan/index.htm