What’s the problem?
It is surprising the number of organisations that don’t have a current IT Strategy; it’s often all too easy to give priority to other corporate projects and think that the IT Strategy, which will take a concerted effort to produce, will have to wait until tomorrow. The trouble is that something else always comes along tomorrow and it never gets started or if it does insufficient resources are focussed on it and it takes several months to produce anything coherent.
It is obviously short-sighted for organisations to adopt this stance. The benefits of having a thorough review of your IT environment, its efficiency, cost and “fitness of purpose” together with an evaluation of how your organisation needs to be supported by Strategic and Tactical IT Projects, in order deliver your Corporate Strategy, can be immense.
Often the complexity involved in developing a strategy makes people defer starting one. If you’ve taken the decision to undertake either a refresh of your existing strategy, or the creation of your first one, you’ll no doubt find yourself asking a number of fundamental questions such as;
- What should an effective IT Strategy cover?
- Where do I start?
- What benefits will it deliver for my organisation?
- What approach should I take to develop one?
What’s the approach needed?
So what should an effective IT Strategy cover? The high level areas which need to be addressed include:
- Operations and Support
- Architecture and Platforms
- Delivery Programme of Strategic & Tactical projects and implementation principles
- Cultural Change requirements
There are a number of ways you can approach the creation of a strategy but within Social Housing the following steps seem to work well – these could probably equally be applied to some other NFP organisations.
- Review Corporate Strategic Plan for next 3-5 years
- Undertake interviews with Executive Directors and Service Heads, to establish i) aspirations for their services, ii) operational issues within their own service, and iii) pain points with the existing IT service
- Conduct user surveys and workshops to establish what the strengths and weaknesses of the existing service are and what end users might like to see added to the service.
- Review Service Plans / Team Plans of each service within the Association for the next year or longer (if these exist).
- Produce a Vision statement (drawn from Corporate Strategy and Service Plans) of where the company will be in 3 years’ time and what the IT Service needs to transform and deliver, in order to get it there. This high level Vision statement should be agreed by the Executive Team/Leadership Team at an early stage, as it will help shape the guiding principles of your IT strategy.
- Determine general principles for the operation of services and the adoption of new IT services and solutions.
- Review general policies and principles for data management.
- Meet key suppliers of software and IT services and establish their Product Road Maps.
- Review Revenue and Capital budgets, Suppliers and Contracts. Benchmark costs against the sector in general together with comparable organisations of similar size and locality.
- Hold workshop(s) with Exec Directors/Service Managers to review and refine your initial proposals for your draft IT Strategy and the ICT Delivery Programme of projects that will underpin the aims of the strategy and business.
- Refine the ICT Delivery Programme to include indicative estimates of Capital and Revenue cost (including both one-off revenue costs and those annually recurring e.g. 20% S&M).
- Presentation of the Strategy and proposed Delivery Programme to Exec Directors/Service Managers and Board (if required).
- Communication and publication of the new strategy to the wider business.
Your current application estate, infrastructure, technologies and services will all need to be reviewed, albeit at a high level, as part of the Strategy development process. It is important to understand that with the exception of any projects already agreed; every proposed project within the IT Delivery Programme should be subject to individual Business Case approval, where a demonstrable ROI and/or Service Improvement can be shown.
It is not uncommon for 50+ projects to be included in a 3 year delivery programme and therefore it is impractical to accurately estimate the cost of the whole programme. That said it is important for indicative estimates to be provided, in order to assist budget setting and general financial planning over the duration of your strategy.
Benefits of having a current IT Strategy
So having followed the above process, the benefits that would accrue by having a current and modern IT Strategy aligned to your Corporate Strategy, might include most of the following;
- Identification of VFM efficiencies and other savings together with possible improvements in Income collection methods.
- Your IT Strategy is aligned with corporate strategy and takes into account the aspirations of the Leadership team for each of their services.
- Your IT Strategy will be underpinned by a delivery programme of IT Projects. These will be a mixture of Strategic and Tactical in their nature (some address corporate wide issues e.g. Document management and workflow, whereas other may be of a more tactical nature such as improving payment methods or restructuring arrears escalation processes).
- The programme of projects will empower users, provide fit-for-purpose solutions and enhance service offerings to your customers.
- Enhance Governance and Data Protection/GDPR compliance.
- Receive recommendations for infrastructure/ software and supplier changes.
- Receive recommendations to enhance security management
- Identification of possible improvements to management and KPI reporting
- Enhanced credibility with partners, Board, audit and other stakeholders by having a coherent modern IT strategy that the business is going to follow.
- Receive recommendations for contract revisions where SLA’s and support contracts are not fit-for-purpose.
- Identification of and proposals for, better data integration and user collaboration.
- Proposals for improvements in Services, including channel-shift opportunities
- Road map of application and infrastructure upgrades required over the term of the strategy
- Indicative financial requirements for all the project proposals contained in the IT Delivery Programme which forms part of the strategy.
- Proposals for essential changes to policies, procedures and controls where the IT Strategy work has uncovered weaknesses with internal controls or processes.
The above should give you an idea of the approach and considerable work required in order to develop a Strategy. The list of benefits though, whilst not exhaustive, should illustrate the potential gains to be made in Service Improvements, VFM Savings, Security and Governance, Reputation and Credibility, together with achieving a Strategic Vision which aligns the IT Service Operations and Project delivery with both your Corporate Strategy and individual Service requirements.
Once you accept that your IT Strategy has to be refreshed/rewritten and brought up-to-date to deal with changes in Corporate Strategy, you’re then faced with the issue of finding internal resources that can undertake this work and focus on delivering it in a timely manner.
How we can help
An easy solution to this problem is to request a consultant from Manifest to partner with your organisation and undertake the IT Strategy project for you. Whilst the amount of effort will of course vary depending upon things such as the complexity of your business, the maturity of your IT Services and your future aspirations; as a general guideline an IT Strategy using the above methods can be produced with circa 4 weeks consultancy effort.
Subject to the necessary Directors and Service Heads being made available when required, it can be seen that it is feasible for your strategy to be developed in a relatively short space of time – in weeks rather than months.
If your organisations IT Strategy needs to be reviewed or developed in the first instance, then please get in touch as we’re here to help and remove this burden from you. We have experienced consultants (Heads of IT with many years’ Social Housing experience) who are ready to come on-site to discuss your IT Strategy and any specific requirements that you may have. This will be at your convenience and without any obligation. Should you require further information or wish to arrange such a meeting, please contact us on
Tel: 0203 797 1012 or email your details to firstname.lastname@example.org