Strategic planning is the Cinderella in the IT department but organisations must transform their attitudes to obtain their business objectives, writes Colin Beveridge
Life is full of intriguing paradoxes and none more so than the regular imbalance between IT investment and IT strategy. This is so widespread that I feel compelled to declare a new law of computing: Beveridge’s Law, which states that the financial investment in technology is inversely proportional to the organisation’s strategic planning effort.
My thesis is based on direct personal experience and broader indirect observation of the IT world at large. It seems that we always spend much more of our time deliberating over smaller, short-term and relatively inexpensive, stuff while we happily commit ourselves very quickly to spending much larger sums on long-term and far costlier items.
The natural outcome of such behaviour is that our precious budgets are consumed by the cost of technology, without necessarily satisfying the aspirations of those who fund our technology so that they can achieve some, or all, of the following objectives:
- Reduce costs
- Maximise revenues
- Standardise process
- Enhance productivity
- Improve workflow and communications
- Sustain repeatable service levels
- Improve risk control mechanisms
- Implement new business strategies
- Facilitate organic and acquisition-driven growth
- Gain competitive advantage by exploiting new technology.
These are not wild ambitions, just basic business drivers for IT investment and every single IT business case, in any organisation, can be categorised into one or more of those objectives.
Nevertheless, I do believe that the cost of technology is always inversely proportional to the strategic planning effort because our head-long dash towards our immediate, albeit well-intentioned, objectives usually precludes the time we have available for taking a considered view of the future.
Which is why our datacentres and desktops are littered with so many casualties of short-term thinking and our returns on investment have been generally poor. The more we spend, the less we seem to get for IT, in real terms at least.
Of course, we are not quite as helpless as we sometimes appear. We can actually do something about our situation, fairly easily in fact, by applying the principles of Beveridge’s Law and adjusting our strategic planning effort to achieve the inversely proportional operating budget benefits.
If all of this strikes you as simplistic and blatantly obvious, please reflect for a moment before switching your attention to the more pressing matters of your hectic day and consider your own organisation.
Think particularly about how much effort your own department puts into genuinely strategic planning and see if you can recognise any glaring examples of inversely proportional costs due to lack of proper planning. I’ll be very pleased, but very surprised, if you can honestly give your outfit a clean bill of health on this problem.
But then IT strategy has always been the Cinderella of the organisation, a neglected Cinderella with two particularly ugly sisters: cost and disappointment.
Colin Beveridge is an independent consultant and leading commentator on technology management issues. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org