A silly muggle talks 5 year IT planning

Did you know it took JK Rowling 5 years to plan out the books in her Harry Potter series? She did not write one book until that 5 years of planning was finished. There is no way of knowing if a 5 year IT plan will make you a 1/2 a billionaire as it has for her, but it will definitely help drive value into any business. Read on to find out what this silly muggle thinks is important in a 5 year IT plan.

These are the key components in a 5 year IT plan.

  1. Business Plan overview
  2. IT SWOT analysis
  3. IT mission statement
  4. Overall IT financial assessment
  5. One Page Scorecard
  6. Detailed IT plan divided into at least 2 IT fields of concentration
  7. Repeat for each Concentration:
    1. Gantt chart
    2. Spending plan
    3. Benefit Plan divided into drivers (Ex: Strategy, Risk Mitigation, Cost Savings, Revenue Generation and Compliance)
    4. Scorecard

Business Plan overview

This overview should contain the key call outs from the 5 year business plan. Is the plan to grow revenue? improve margins? increase EBIT? expand footprint? capture market share? increase sustainability? sell the business? go public? pass the business to a family member? Any or all of these are important foundations to the IT plan. Each one of these should drive the decisions that are documented in the IT plan. At most this should be the 5 year business plan on a page, at least it should be the one paragraph elevator pitch for your 5 year plan. Either way it is important there is a call out to find the entire 5 year business plan.

IT SWOT analysis

Understanding the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats that the IT team faces is fundamental to the creation of a valuable plan. It is also important that this analysis take into account at least 2 points of view. There will be an internal IT point of view and there will be an external point of view. In a perfect world those 2 points of view will align, if not the rest of the plan needs to put in place items to address that misalignment. This item should be a 4 quadrant visual.

IT mission statement

This should be a simple one line statement for IT that is aligned with the business mission statement. However be careful not to just add the word IT into the business mission. For example “Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” Do not make the IT mission statement “Provide information technology to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” That adds no value to the IT mission statement. Alignment does not come from matching the words it comes from matching the intent. For instance “We will attract the best information technologists in the world and give them the latest tools and training in order to support our business mission.” I recently met a CIO who’s mission was to have the IT shop in his metro-area that all IT professionals aspire to work at. A valid mission may be to have a sustainable IT operation that works within the financial constraints of the organization. Sometimes having an average IT department is a valid mission as the company may need to invest in other areas to enable it’s growth.

Overall IT financial assessment

If available this section should contain historical IT spend along with the plans for future IT spend. This section should take into account industry standards, according to TechVara:

  • The average small company (less than $50 million in revenue) spends 6.9% of their revenue on IT
  • Mid-sized (between $50 million – $2 billion) spend 4.1%
  • Larger companies (over $2 billion) spend a relatively tiny 3.2%

The assessment should also take into account 2 key components to IT spending. How much of the budget will be spent to run the business and how much will be spent to grow the business.  It should also take into account how much will be spent in each field of concentration. These metrics will drive the financial portion of the scorecard.

One Page Scorecard

This one page scorecard should be used to determine how well the team is driving towards the 5 year plan. It should be updated quarterly and changed annually when the 5 year plan is updated. Below is a sample of what this scorecard could look like.

Detailed IT plan divided into at least 2 IT fields of concentration

Next the organization should choose how it wants to break down IT into fields of concentration. Some common ones are applications, infrastructure, security, projects, engineering, development and organization. These should be customized for the business. All shops have an organization even if it is only 1 person. Almost all shops could be broken up into infrastructure and applications. The other items should be added as needed. The next section will talk about what should be done for each concentration.

Repeat for each Concentration:

Gantt chart

This chart should contain an overview of the major efforts that will be undertaken over the 5 years of the plan. Below is a sample:

Spending plan

The spending plan is exactly the same plan from the scorecard above but broken down for each area of concentration. Below is an example:

 

Benefit Plan divided into drivers (Ex: Strategy, Risk Mitigation, Cost Savings, Revenue Generation and Compliance)

This last section will be the most difficult section in the 5 year plan but it is also the most important. So far the sections have done little to tie back to the business plan but this section is where the tie to the business plan will become most evident. For instance, if the business plan is to grow revenue by 10% a year and to increase margin to 30% in the next 5 years, then the 2 main drivers in the IT plan should be Revenue Growth and Margin Growth. All investments should in some way contribute to those drivers. Just like the spend chart the benefit chart should show the planned benefit over those 5 years. Below is a sample for the Revenue Growth driver:

Scorecard

This scorecard should use all the same elements as the plan scorecard from above but should be drilled down to only the level of this area of concentration. Doing that makes it much easier to roll-up the over view page. These scorecards however should be reviewed monthly by appropriate stakeholders.

Summary

The 5 year plan needs to be a living document. This is something that is updated annually and reviewed quarterly. It should get ingrained into the day to day work that is done in IT. It is not something that is created once and sits on a shelf. It a road map that lays out where an IT organization can be in 5 years.

About the author:


Greg Stellflue is a remarkable Information Technology leader with rich experience in multiple IT disciplines.

Email: greg.stellflue@level5iveconsulting.com

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