Does IT Strategy Matter?
We are fast approaching 2015 strategy-setting season for those companies in which the fiscal and calendar year align. Most companies will contemplate and define strategic objectives around revenue growth, cost reduction, customer satisfaction, mergers and acquisitions, and the like. More strategically mature companies will filter those down into strategic plans for the functional units and business units of the company such as Marketing, Sales, Finance, Operations, Human Resources, and product and service areas of various kinds. The information technology department must bring to life many of the strategic imperatives of the other functional units and business units of the company. As a result, IT needs to weave itself into the narrative of each of those plans.
Increasingly, I have heard CIOs and other IT executives say, “There is no IT strategy; there only business strategy.” This sounds great, especially for a division of the corporate structure that has historically referred to itself as separate from “the business.” The problem is that this would seem to suggest that there is only one strategy: the enterprise strategy. When you extend this logic, it would suggest that there need not be a Marketing strategy, an Operations strategy, product or service strategies, HR strategies, and the like. For instance, if the enterprise strategy suggests that revenue growth is projected to be 15% for the next year, what role will Marketing play in building those revenues, and how will that division go about driving them? The Marketing strategy should provide that additional detail. Likewise, the Sales strategy should do the same, providing its version of the translation.
IT should have its own plan that is a complement to the strategies of the other divisions. As I note in my new book, Implementing World Class IT Strategy: How IT Can Drive Organizational Innovation, IT must develop a means to engage the rest of the units of the company earlier so that they can play a role in shaping the plans of each of those units, and after IT has a better understanding of what is necessary, an IT-specific strategy should be formulated.