This article outlines 8 Essential Steps in Developing An Effective ICT Strategy. When companies in Kenya develop ICT strategic plans without a transparent process, they tend to be more of an exercise in futility rather than a reflection of the reality and ways to bridge the gap between current and target state. We therefore suggest a simple but effective 8 Essential Steps in Developing An Effective ICT Strategy and document the plan.
What is ICT Strategy?
Strategy refers to the formulation of basic organizational missions, purposes and objectives, policies and program strategies to achieve them; and the methods needed to ensure that strategies are implemented to achieve organizational ends.
ICT Strategy (Information Technology Strategy or Technology Strategy or IS Strategy or IT Strategy) is an approach to create an information technology capability for maximum, and sustainable value for an organization. ICT Strategy is implemented using an ICT Strategic Plan which documents specific steps, deliverables, and timeline.
ICT Strategy helps create shareholder value. In other words, it helps maximize the return on ICT investments.
Why Develop an ICT Strategy?
Creating an ICT strategy is an organization-wide effort and it’s well worth the investment. Here’s why:
- It provides a unifying approach to processing and sharing
information across the company so you can increase efficiency, minimize duplicate work, improve collaboration,and minimize errors.
- It facilitates data collection, processing, governance, and analytics. Many new technologies, such as those using AI and big data for business intelligence, require a large amount of reliable data to produce accurate insights.
- It allows for a holistic and comprehensive approach to cybersecurity and gap analysis so you can effectively protect customer and employee data. This is particularly important if you’re in a regulated industry and need to stay compliant with security standards.
- It helps improve IT resilience that will minimize the high costs associated with extended downtime.
- It allows your IT department to take a proactive role in resource allocation and project planning so decisions can be made to prioritize long-term benefits.
- It helps improve communication between IT and different departmental leaders to achieve better executive alignment and stakeholder buy-in for IT initiatives, resulting in better overall business strategy and business processes.
1. Align ICT Strategy with Business Objectives
An effective ICT strategy should address the overall business goals and needs.
The first step is therefore to understand the business objectives of each department and the entire organization, e.g., sales target, growth plan, marketing goals, new partnership opportunities, demand forecast, logistics, etc. to ensure a holistic approach that will meet the needs of all business functions.
2. Gather Information From Key Stakeholders
In order to design a forward-thinking enterprise architecture ICT strategy that addresses not only your current technological requirements but also supports the organization’s future growth, you need to understand and analyze key technology trends in the industry.
You can do so by defining and communicating with key stakeholders that are responsible for different aspects of the business, e.g., through individual conversations, surveys, or group interviews.
3. Define IT Requirements and Scope
The next step is to define the requirements and time span of your ICT strategy and make sure that it addresses the objectives of each business unit and the entire organization.
Whether it is an in-depth assessment or a cursory review will depend on the maturity of the IT department. A comprehensive evaluation may be necessary if the enterprise is embarking on a significant transformation. In a steady state, a simple review will suffice.
4. Analyze Current Capabilities and Infrastructure
After defining the ICT requirements, you need to take inventory of the available infrastructure, such as the hardware in your data center, so you can identify any gap in the current capabilities and see how you can best achieve your objectives with as few disruptions and in the most cost-efficient way possible.
Don’t forget to take into account the “human factor,” such as how employees are actually using the current technologies, the challenges each department encounters, how each software or tool integrates into the “big picture,” and the results the current systems are achieving.
5. Define Overall Architecture
Now that you have a solid understanding of where you’re at and where you need to go, it’s time to figure out how to get there by mapping out the IT architecture, which includes software, hardware, other tools and resources you’ll need.
The overall architecture should consider department-specific technologies (e.g., to stay compliant with regulation) and how they integrate into the larger company-wide system.
6. Define KPIs
They say “what gets measured gets done.” To make sure your ICT strategy is taking your business where it needs to go, define a set of KPIs (key performance metrics) so you can measure its effectiveness.
Depending on the nature and focus of each component, there will be different key metrics
E.g., measurement of agility, project delivery time, customer and employee satisfaction, marketing and sales ROI, capacity utilization, service-level indicators (e.g.,the number of help desk calls,) etc.
7. Obtain Leadership Buy-in and Budget Approval
After getting everyone excited about the grand plan, you need to secure executive support and a sufficient budget to execute the strategy.
Prepare a data-driven projection on the ROI of the IT initiatives to get senior executives on board.
8. Identify the Right Resources
While most companies in Kenya already have an ICT team, it’s typically tasked with the day-to-day maintenance of the IT systems. Resources are often stretched when the team has to tackle additional IT projects and long-term technology decisions such as digitaltransformation.
It’s important to review your project plan with an IT consulting firm and make sure you have sufficient personnel with the right expertise to support both new IT initiatives and ongoing operations. This will give you the overall competitive advantage you need!