An IT strategic plan is a document outlining the steps an organization will take to adopt new technology investments.
It is different from an IT strategy. Unlike plans which are ever-changing to adapt to the market’s changing needs, strategies are the touchstones that give people direction when things change. If an IT strategy plan doesn’t change for 2 or more years, it’s probably out of touch with reality. So, organizations naturally review/update their plans every short-term (e.g., yearly).
Keep reading to see some organizations’ IT strategic plans and their components.
What is an IT strategic plan?
An IT strategic plan documents how an organization will leverage emerging technologies, have skilled personnel, protect data, and deliver measurable results to achieve business goals. The document details what should be done to accomplish an organization’s IT strategy, by whom, when, the deliverables, risks, and performance metrics. An IT strategic plan is a tool for implementing an IT strategy.
An IT strategy is a directional touchstone that shows how IT will help achieve business goals, the target architecture, financial management, and performance metrics. It must align with the overall business strategy.
An IT strategic planning process assesses how an organization will use information technologies to achieve its business goals. It’s an iterative process that could take any form.
It could look like this:
To create an IT strategic plan, the IT department will need to:
- Get the internal and external stakeholders on board to get the necessary funding and resources.
- Define the roles and responsibilities to execute the IT strategy.
- Gather information and stakeholder feedback (using surveys, interviews, focus groups, etc.) on the current technology capabilities and the industry outlook.
- Analyze the information collected to identify weaknesses and opportunities and make recommendations.
- Create the IT strategy plan document (more on what to include below)
- Get feedback on the plan and revise as necessary.
- Review and update the plan periodically.
What is included in an Information Technology strategic plan?
The core components of an IT strategic plan are IT objectives (which must align with general business goals), the strategic initiatives and actions, IT capabilities, risk management & security, and performance metrics.
But an organization’s IT strategic plan can include any of the following as needed:
- IT strategic objectives
- IT capabilities assessment (infrastructure, applications, reporting, analytics). The plan could also include people and process capabilities assessment.
- Performance metrics/Key Performance Indicators
- IT plan implementation information
- Plan maintenance information
- IT Strategic initiatives and goals
- IT priorities
Every organization chooses what to include in its strategic plan, depending on its business strategy.
IT strategy plan example
An IT strategic plan could be as simple as Gartner’s one-page template (image below) or as comprehensive as Cambridge’s 125-page document. Below are some IT strategic plans.
Harvard University’s IT strategic plan 2018
Source: Harvard University IT strategic plan 2018
Department of Homeland Security IT strategic plan 2019-2023
Source: DHS IT strategic plan 2019-2023
Town of Nantucket IT strategic plan
More IT strategic plans for 2022
- University of South Florida IT strategic plan 2019-2023
- Lake Michigan College IT strategic plan 2021-2025
- College of Staten Island IT strategic plan 2021-2025
Gartner’s sample IT strategic plan
Source: Gartner’s IT Strategic Plan template
Why is an IT strategic plan important?
The primary purpose of an IT strategic plan is to guide decision-making when adapting to new technology, a changing market, politics, etc. The detailed plan exposes strengths, opportunities, threats, and risks in an organization’s IT capabilities. And it provides a long-term view of the IT department’s contribution to business goals.
Developing an IT strategic plan
Every IT strategy plan is fully customized to the organization. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach. But there are vital elements that a business must address. So let’s explore them below.
Approach the plan from the business strategy context
Why does the business need a new information technology system?
Business strategies guide IT strategic plans. We look at where the business is, where it’s headed, how to get there, and the fundamental objectives. Then create an IT strategic plan to support the business objectives.
The image below shows what FIT needed in the 2018-2020 IT Strategic Plan.
It could be an introduction or executive summary. It shows why the business needs better technology. Besides that statement, your team will also outline:
- IT objectives
- IT strategic initiatives
- IT mission statement
- IT vision
- IT SWOT analysis
The image below shows FIT’s IT objectives aligned with their general business goals.
Outline the technologies that will achieve business outcomes
Which systems suit the business needs?
Data sources like internal business analysis, industry reports, and Political, Economic, Social, and Technological (PEST) analyses will help your team identify modern technologies that’ll achieve the business goals. We mostly identify different systems for different objectives.
One of FIT’s IT objectives was operational excellence. In their strategic plan, the IT Division detailed the current operational situation (lacking disaster recovery, upgrades, etc.), their recommendations (MyFit upgrade, Data Center Move, etc.), and their process for consensus.
They also outlined the specific initiatives that would achieve operational excellence.
And a timeline for completing the initiatives.
They did the same for the other 3 objectives.
Your IT department will analyze the available software solutions objectively to pinpoint those that align with the business goals.
And after choosing the technologies, the team has to determine how the new systems will integrate with the old systems and business processes.
What will business processes look like after the transformation?
Define the future business-focused IT department
What skills do we need to use the new system to achieve the IT objectives?
FIT did an IT skills gap analysis to determine the missing skills and their importance to the IT strategic plan. They created the informative grid in the image below.
The gap analysis revealed whether to hire new skills, retrain your staff or hire outside support. So they created an action plan for new hires, cross-training, webinars, seminars, and cloud services.
And within the IT strategic plan, they outlined the activities for achieving each objective. See the image below.
Often, businesses need to create an elaborate IT governance team to handle resource allocation and ensure that we implement the strategic initiatives.
While FIT merely mentioned IT governance in their document, the Town of Nantucket’s IT Strategic Plan created a complete IT governance model that included:
- the governance team
- a technology review process
- a process for approving and prioritizing project requests in the budgeting and Capital Planning process
The IT governance model looked like this:
All these changes bring up the question: how do we help our people adapt to the new system and business processes?
Gartner found that 73% of employees who go through changes feel stressed. And when stressed, they are 5% less effective.
The Town of Nantucket IT Department defined their organizational change management as follows (in their 2016 IT Strategic Plan):
“Strategic consideration should be made regarding the approach for deploying new technologies (i.e., “Big Bang” versus a phased approach). A strategic focus should also be placed on the methods for supplying end-user training and obtaining user acceptance, along with involving key department stakeholders when implementing new technologies.”
The City of Philadelphia was even more specific with its change management plan:
“Acting upon a key recommendation of the GoAgile Advisory Working Group, OIT has recently launched a six-month training program for IT project managers and departmental IT directors on organizational and process change management. Training is designed in collaboration with the Philadelphia extension of Harrisburg University’s Government Technology Institute, and will explore the value and delivery of change management in IT solution planning and execution.”
Your IT department also needs a business continuity plan & risk management initiatives.
Define your data and security plan
How do we integrate, protect and use data after the transformation?
Your IT team will determine how to move data to the new tech and within the entire system. But most importantly, how to report and get insights out of the data. Business intelligence was one of Nantucket’s IT initiatives in 2016. They figured that Business intelligence could add business value when used for reporting, analytics, and performance management.
Beyond using the data, we also need to protect it from hackers and internal employees who would access or steal sensitive information. Organizations employ measures like access control, data security as a service, and modernizing data security guidelines.
FIT’s information security plan timeline in the image below gives a nice overview of security measures in digital transformation.
Define the IT strategic plan metrics
How do we track performance and inform key stakeholders?
Performance metrics ensure accountability and that the IT investment keeps delivering the business value that we expect. So IT KPIs depend on the business goals.
For example, the University of North Carolina Wilmington’s IT Strategic plan had KPIs like:
- increased communication and collaboration with stakeholders
- better capability and capacity management through IT governance
- improved resilience after optimizing cloud services
While the Town of Nantucket had KPIs like:
- identifying and securing future funding
- cross-department coordination and cooperation
- ownership of business units during the transformation
Perfecting an IT strategic plan is not the goal. Instead, the goal is to create a digital transformation plan that aligns with the overall business goals. But beyond creating a documented plan, executing an organization’s strategic plan is everything.
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