Taking Time to Assess the IT Plan
Twice a year, I get my greater IT team together to assess the tactical plan for the next six months and gather input looking forward to the next three years. I found this process to be insightful, thought-provoking, and personally challenging. Nobody, and I mean nobody, enjoys having someone poke holes in their plans for eight plus hours. However, if this is not done regularly than my plans and assumptions may be completely off or develop gaps large enough park a small data center in them. These types of oversight errors are avoidable and can be incredibly damaging to the business. That makes them completely inexcusable and unacceptable. Time for ego to take a back seat and step up to the plate to see how good my IT plan does under review.
As IT leaders it is important to take the time to select our review team carefully. I prefer to have representation of each of the core IT areas and include active IT team members, key vendors, and consultants in the mix. I select individuals that have differing view points and come from varying backgrounds. This is no place for “yes” people. The idea is to get a broad range of opinions to go through assumptions, initiatives, and high-level tactical plans that cover the next 6 to 36 months to see what was missed, review new technology trends, provide feedback on the direction of the department, and keep IT ambitions realistic.
It is rather amazing that the last phrase is the most challenging part of the process. We all want to build the best IT departments we can build to help move the business forward. However, IT can become overambitious and develop plans that are unrealistic and thereby doomed for failure. I ask my “brain trust” to challenge each other and me on the overall direction of the IT department, the proposed initiatives, and high-level timelines. I want to be sure the initiatives will deliver on the needed business value and are achievable when taken into the greater context of all major works streams proposed. This really can be incredibly humbling when you see your plans chewed up and morphed right before your eyes. Once the ego is brought back into check, we end up with a solid outline for the next three-years that has been sanity checked for realistic implementation and the promise to deliver the required business value. And in six more months we will do it again.
Next we move into plan consolidation and budget planning. This is where it starts to get very interesting and the IT cog gets fit into the context of the greater corporate machine. Time will tell what makes it, and what will be cut. The one thing that I can tell you is that doing this process will make you prepared to have those meetings where the budgets are made and cut. This preparation and vetting have made huge differences during the budget phase as I am able to speak about various proposals, alternatives, business impact, long-term direction, and budgets. Golden.