Have you ever been tasked with creating a strategic plan? Do large Gantt charts with deadlines and dependencies scare you? Well, you are not alone.
Recently, I set out to create the IT strategic plan for Frogslayer. Reading World Class IT gave me some good ideas, but the execution seemed complex. Then I read a couple of Patrick Lencioni’s books and was impressed with the idea that simple things done well are what leverage an organization. Combining this with the management system our company is using and the Agile software development approach, my light bulb went off. This resulted in a 5-step process for strategy creation which I hope will be helpful to others.
5-Step Process for Strategic Planning
1. Start with Existing Company Values
Instead of reinventing the wheel, we used our existing core values. With each value, IT applications and ways of functioning were identified that could support and bring them to life. The company’s “3-year picture” was also examined to see what our department would need to do to help us get there. This provided a good foundation for our strategy.
2. Identify Roles and Responsibilities
Next, we identified the roles and associated responsibilities within the IT department. We didn’t base this categorization around current staff but around ideal roles. We then identified who was filling which roles (currently multiple roles per person). This proved very helpful in directing senior IT staff to let go of responsibilities that fell into junior team members’ roles.
3. Create Roadmaps
At first, the idea of roadmaps scared me due to the thought of needing dates, times, and dependencies on everything. So, instead, I started by writing down what ideal situations would look like – for example, ideal remote office, ideal physical office, ideal software situation, etc. These ideals were aligned with our company values and 3-year goals. I quickly realized that even without dates and times, these lists were my roadmap that described the destination we were headed toward.
4. Identify Projects
A list of potential projects was created to correspond with the three areas above. Some help us better align with company values or help move the firm towards its 3-year goals. Others reinforce or support our roles and responsibilities, while others move us toward our ideal IT environment.
5. Break Down into Actionable Tasks
The potential project list became our backlog (from the agile world), and we could sort and prioritize once we had everything on it. The most important projects at the top were broken down into actionable steps and used as our quarterly rocks for the next quarter. This helps us consistently work on the most critical issues and not spend time breaking down projects that don’t need to be broken down yet.
Changes Over Time
Keep in mind that a strategic plan is not a fixed document. As you go through a quarter and encounter new ideas, add them to the project list. Then during quarterly planning, review and modify roadmaps as necessary and prioritize the project list to identify priorities for the forthcoming quarter.
While identifying quarterly priorities, we made a clear decision to reject any projects that were not selected. This enabled us to keep those projects on the back burner and concentrate on prioritized projects rather than being pulled in multiple directions. Saying “No” is just as significant as saying “Yes,” and having a firm stance on this matter makes it easier to establish and meet short-term goals and deadlines.