IT Strategic Planning: A Customized Approach with Guardrails
The right governance strategy can help associations tackle digital transformation in alignment with technology and business goals.
Compare the technology plans of various organizations meticulously enough, and you’ll find that no two are the same. Many are typed out; others exist only in the minds of IT staff. Some are brief, some detailed. They address distinct problems and business objectives. They’re even given different names—one group’s digital transformation strategy is another’s IT roadmap.
But regardless of what you call it (we’re partial to “strategic plan”), the purpose of these documents is the same.
“An IT strategic plan aligns the organization’s technology platforms, processes, resources, and goals with its mission, vision, and business objectives,” said DelCor President Dave Coriale. “Don’t focus too much on templates or the artifact you create. The value is in the activities that occur to create it—the conversations you have, the connections you make, and the education you provide.”
Understand Association-Wide Objectives
The first step in developing a strategic plan is understanding your association’s objectives across departments. “Without that understanding, you can’t have an IT plan that’s aligned with the organization’s goals,” Coriale said.
While IT teams typically shepherd strategic planning processes, creating them in a vacuum is never a good idea. Instead, the goal is to provide guidelines that align technical resources with the business requirements of your association as a whole.
“An IT strategic plan helps organizations avoid piecemeal solutions aimed at addressing individual needs of staff—a practice which rarely results in a cohesive, long-term IT ecosystem,” said Jeff Merrill, director of managed services at DelCor.
Coriale recommends that IT teams keep departmental conversations simple. “Approach each business unit within the organization and simply talk to them about what they’re trying to accomplish,” he said. “Stay at a high level and discuss key business requirements that need to be supported by technology.”
The initial goal, Coriale said, is to complete a version of the plan with enough information to be usable by early adopters, who can then provide feedback to inform future iterations.
“We in the association community tend to want things perfect before we say they’re ‘done,'” he said. “But in the last 10 years, the industry has moved into an agile development and management framework focused on the minimum viable product (MVP). After you’ve reached the minimum viable version of your IT strategic plan, you can continue to build on it.”
Assess Current and Future States of Technology
After determining cross-departmental objectives, define the current state of your association’s technology. Include an overview of the tech ecosystem. How many systems are implemented within the organization, and which business units own them?
“As you develop your IT roadmap and strategy, you’re going to find opportunities to consolidate where it makes sense, providing more integration and a simpler IT ecosystem for the organization,” Coriale said.
Also consider technology-dependent aspects of your current organizational strategy, such as your cybersecurity culture. “Don’t focus only on the technology that helps protect your organization from cyberattacks and leave out professional development, which is an HR function, or organizational culture, which involves leadership,” Coriale said. “All of that is part of the conversation you should have on the current state of technology.”
Next, determine where you’re headed and why. Present a vision of what you’d like to see five years down the road and then define the tactics, resources, and time it will take to get there.
“If your association can see itself as a digital organization and understand the concept of delivering your products, services, and value proposition through technology, then your organization’s leadership will see the need to support your IT strategic plan,” Coriale said.
It’s All About Alignment
Ultimately, your IT strategic plan should aim to close gaps between your current and desired state while outlining tactical information.
“Remember, your strategic plan is not a technology implementation, budget, or development plan. It’s an alignment plan between mission, vision, and business objectives and how technology will support them,” Coriale said.
“Keep it as simple as you can and develop it as time goes on,” he added.
DelCor works closely with associations and nonprofits to offer outsourced IT support, CIO services, technology assessments, and digital workplace consulting. For more information on DecCor’s digital workplace consulting services and association technology solutions, visit delcor.com.