The Evolution and the Future Prospect of Information Technology Strategy
The use of information technology globally has advanced globally. There have been major developments in this industry over the past decades. Currently, there are strategies in place which are concerned about how IT will be of greater use today and much greater in the future. With this, the need to ensure that the technology is accessible and affordable to the populations while accountability is in place, strategies to oversee the developments come in handy. This article analyses and discusses the strategies that had been in place in the last two decades, the currently existing strategies while looking at the probable shape the strategies will pick up in the near future.
IT strategy can be regarded as an iterative process whose main purpose is to align IT potential with the goals, objectives and the reason for the existence of an institution, organization and or business. Strategy is not a point in time event; on the contrary, it is a continuous process. Looking at the history of this, it will be evident that success in the strategies comes after various trials which have enabled people to learn on how to establish the best strategies currently in place. For businesses, the reason behind such strategies aims at ensuring that the goals and objectives of the business can be achieved through the technology and the technology investments which are aligned to the business’ plan.
The strategy in all fields, the strategy maximizes the returns attained on IT (Chew & Gottschalk, 2009). On understanding what an IT strategy is, it can thus be argued that the organization and the IT potential or capability are aligned together rather than designing IT strategies to address the requirements of the organization. The strategies therefore aim at setting direction for the IT function in the given organization.
The need for an IT Strategy
Over the past decades, there have been technological developments. On the same duration of time, businesses and competing organizations have come up in the delivery of the same services and products. This means that every organization in an attempt to win consumers over to their side have had to make maximum utilization of the technological resources to position themselves better. IT in the decades has been essential in marketing as companies need to win consumers over by showing that they are the best in the market. Generally, organizations with the best IT strategy have been the main beneficiaries in the market. To further comprehend this, issues have been arising in developing countries as to why most advertisements are not prepared in the countries (Smith, Mckeen & Singh 2012). The advertisement professionals opt for engaging developed countries’ citizens and structures in conducting the shooting the adverts with the one of the reason being that the IT structure in such regions is well placed and can thus reach more people.
Many organizations exist without a clear IT strategy- it is possible. The risk on such existence is that the absence of the framework implies that everyday investment decisions on IT have to be made on the basis of their merit and usually in relation to only one part of the organization. Such decision making is expensive. Frustration therefore arises and is then followed by the concern of IT acting as an obstacle in achieving the goals of an organization rather than being one of the most strong and essential resource in the organization. On the contrary, a clear and deeply thought IT strategy provides for the making of cost-effective and appropriate decisions about IT.
In some circumstances, organizations have reported it more likely and simpler to come out successful in coming up with an IT strategy. In such situations, the corporate strategy and priorities are well understood and clear to managers, stakeholders and staff who take part in the strategy. In addition, all the stakeholders who should be involved have the time to focus on the IT strategy without distraction from other programmes or projects of work in progress at the time. Finally, the senior managers in the charity tend to be supportive and engage in active encouragement of staff and colleagues to take part in the strategy when need be. The Nike, Inc Marketing Department paid tribute to the success of their IT strategy citing the above as the reasons to the success of their strategy that was in place from the year 2007 to 2012.
Structure and constituents of a typical IT strategy
Generally, most Information Technology Strategies have the sections discussed below. It is rational to note that, the sections are not limited to the ones in this discussion. In the past, the sections were fewer. With continued advancement in technology, there will be notable changes on what shall be contained in this section. This is because; IT will grow and become bolder in days to come.
It contains an executive summary which surrounds the project scope and objective, high level organizational benefits, methodology and approach of the engagement, relationship to overall business strategy and lastly the resource summary. Under the resource summary, there is the aspect of summary of key projects, staffing and finally budgets. The other section is internal capabilities (Chew & Gottschalk, 2009). This incorporates the methods for implementation of IT solutions, architectural directions, current IT departmental strength and weakness, IT Project Portfolio Management and lastly an inventory of the level of resources required and the existing applications. The other section is the external forces which pays tribute to a list of new IT projects required and or requested by the organization, increasing expectations of users and summary of the changes which are driven from the outside the organization such as the competitors.
The IT strategy also contains description of opportunities mainly on cost reduction and effectiveness. A description of possible threats is also listed here explaining and analyzing IT usage by competition while describing disruptive forces that have the potential of causing low profits or the competitive edge. While still on the components, it is stated that the IT Organization governance and structure must be incorporated. Under this, there is IT role description, its responsibilities and roles in addition to the governance. An IT strategy should provide provisions for indication of milestones (Smith, Mckeen & Singh 2012). The milestones entail list of quarterly, monthly and mid-year milestones with the review dates indicating the direction taken by the strategy. Lastly but not least, the aspect of relations is equally important. Information technology and strategic planning should be aligned in such a way that they can work together. An IT strategy is not termed complete due to the availability of all this sections, it is complete by considering its effectiveness and the relation established with regards o the goals, mission and vision of a given organization or business.
Development of an IT Strategy
Organizations with the best IT strategy understand the need for improving the value of their organizations. The strategies that existed decades before were totally different from what there is today. In the rapidly changing conditions and the evolving IT, organizations have to learn to develop the most effective IT strategy. In the present day, there exist programmers and IT strategy developers. Colleges and other teaching institutions have in the recent past understood the need of the two professionals in dealing with technology in these organizations. Those who prepare the strategies actually receive more pay than programmers. This is after the realization of their need in the business world. This has only happened in this decade. In the same decade, there has been witnessed a massive development in social media participation such as Twitter, Facebook and MySpace being the most common worldwide. These developments cannot be left out in establishing an effective IT strategy. It is also an indicator that organizations should be open minded in observing every technological opening in which they can advance their strategy in today’s world and for the future as well. This will ensure maximum utilization if IT with the maximum returns and ensuring there is no loose end in existence (Smith, Mckeen & Singh 2012).
When an IT strategy designed is projected to serve for over a given period in which case most professionals report, it to be around three to five years. However, as stated above, there will always be developments and changes in the organization’s business environment or structure which will demand for redeployment and realignment of the available IT resources (Smith, Mckeen & Singh 2012). The changes may also occur when Senior Executives develop uncertainty over the value their organization achieves from its IT investment. The uncertainty may develop from lingering questions on the areas receiving IT support, effectiveness, possible improvements, direction desired, partnerships, outsourcing and improvement of the relationship between the business users of the system in place and the IT branch or department. When there are no clear responses to the above, there is need to embark on a project whose primary goal is to create an IT strategy.
Over time, there have been advancements in multiple attempts to come up with the best strategy. Multiple errors over the decades have made it possible for effective strategies to be in place today. In writing an IT strategy, there are four key areas that need to be paid attention to. They include; preparation and planning, understanding of the IT needs in the organization, exploring the options available and finally implementing. In summary, that is what it is all about. It sounds pretty easy but there is a lot of work and effort required. It is a process. When it comes to planning and preparation, there are some things that should be considered in the planning (Chew & Gottschalk, 2009). The first thing is the scope; this entails the entire area that should be covered by the IT strategy. Any areas that need to be excluded with substantial reason need to be identified and explained in detail. Secondly, there is the issue of governance. Human resource professionals identify human resource as the most important and special resource in an organization’s structure.
This applies again in the management of the IT strategy. The minimal requirement is that there should be a senior manager who ought to oversee the implementation of the strategy (Kantai, 2009). He/she is mandated to make sure that every staff member in the organization has a clear understanding of the strategy and ensures that the guidelines and policies under the strategy are followed to the letter. On the same, there should be adequate allocation of resources especially human, capital and time (Kantai, 2009). This should be done at the planning stage because the entire process is complex. Lastly, on preparation and planning, there is need to ensure adequate involvement and communication for whatever outcomes in terms of the strategy, the technology and organization for there will be unavoidable change in the way things happens. People need to be informed and involved from the start so that the resulting change can be managed effectively.
As stated the next step would be co-operating and integrating the organizational or business strategies with IT so as to understand the organization’s IT needs. For instance, the IT needs of FIFA and Google, Inc vary by a great margin. While the FIFA needs are to inform the entire globe on the upcoming football matches, the scores, the new rules and regulations relating to soccer and passing judgments on the same, Google, Inc on the other side has multiple more needs with IT. It has to ensure that the search engine is operational in every part of the world, the information it provides is up to date, the email services are competitive to the competitors and that security of the users is assured. Looking at this, one can distinguish the differing IT needs between various businesses. Therefore, the IT strategy should be rooted in the priorities, aims and objectives of the organization. While still on the same, it is essential to understand the current strengths and weaknesses of the existing strategy and the IT provision (Fitzsimmons & Fitzsimmons, 2011). It requires reviewing the IT progress and the feedback from the staff and consumers. This allows for possible improvements. In the end, stakeholders understand the necessity to support and uphold such strategies. However, there is need to go further and explain the possible risks of the IT strategy, the qualitative and quantifiable benefits as well as explaining how specific groups and or individuals could witness the realization of the benefits and how they would measure them.
What then follows is an exploration of available options and thus decision making. For good decision making, identification and through exploration of a range of options comes in handy. For instance, one may decide to seek advice or raise awareness. Going back to the example of developed and developing countries; most African countries have been looking up to China and the U.S in an attempt to seek funding, training and advice on how they can establish up to date IT strategies which will eventually prompt their development. In businesses, raising awareness may entail being humble enough and visit other organizations and see how they operate. Attending conferences, exhibitions, reading magazines, journals and publications, browsing the internet and meeting possible suppliers all end up providing multiple options (Fitzsimmons & Fitzsimmons, 2011).
For new technological introductions in an organization, it is rational to seek advice on how such operates and how its success can be derived. However, it would be advisable to seek advice from experts only. With adequate research, the decision to be made should be guided by among other factors; indicative costs, technical risk and complexity, demand on energy and staff time, organizational culture fitting, time and effort required for implementation and the extent to which the needs identified can be supported. Research into options opens up a person’s understanding on how difficult or easy it would be to meet given needs (Collin, 2012) . These factors are then used in the priorities to invest in going by the reasons as to why an organization does exist.
When a strategy has been put up, there is need for its implementation. This can only be achieved by sharing the strategy internally and externally if need be. This may call for the production of a document which narrates the audience of the strategy, description of the technology currently in place and the information systems, the organization’s IT needs, the decisions taken and the schedule of projects and other prioritized activities for the delivery of the IT strategy with appropriate timeframes. The strategy should then be indicated and expounded in the broader planning and budgeting function of the organization. This would allow for its refreshing at given intervals and also monitoring and implementing while measuring the expected benefits.
Evaluation of an IT strategy
Going by the process of preparing the IT strategy, the determination of whether a strategy is a success or a failure goes back to observing the returns gained after investing in technology (Collin, 2012). In the preparation and planning stage, there are goals and targets set which should be attained under the given strategy over a given period. There is need then to always analyze the strategy from time to time to understand whether it is still on the direction it was intended for while over a time line to give value to the investment.
It is also rational to compare the organization’s IT strategy with that of other organizations. Understanding and analyzing the results and benefits that the competitors have achieved via their strategy will help in dictating whether there is need for advancements or re-engineering in the Information Technology strategy. Furthermore, how the staff reacts to the change and the adaptation process help in further scrutiny of the entire strategy. Their views in addition to those of the consumers should form as decision making basis in analyzing the IT strategy.
The application of telecommunications equipment and computers in the storage, retrieve, manipulation and transmission of data mainly in the context of business and other enterprises has witnessed massive advancements in recent decades. Organizations have more options on which to choose from for instance when it comes to their internet providers. This is an example of a change that has been witnessed over the decades; the death of monopoly in IT. There are technological advancements in almost every part of the world. With the existing competition which is actually beneficial, it is now mandatory that any organization with the desire of achieving the most benefits from technology, they must ensure that they have an Information Technology strategy in place which is effective and efficient. This strategy is not rigid; it is firm and flexible to any further developments. It looks at the future. The advancements will keep sprouting in the future and with regard to this, the best strategy will be that positioned firmly to welcome, research, understand and make maximum utilization of the information technology.
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