The Hitchhikers Guide to IT Strategy

My life is filled with coincidence. Again 2 events drove me to a topic this week. Last week after my Sunday night 90 minutes of catching up on Gotham and The Walking Dead, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was showing on HBO. I watched the last 30 minutes. Monday I attend PONG as usual. One of the people I met at PONG, Bill Burnett, has a new book coming out, “Outsell, The guaranteed competitive advantage for your sales team”. I was given the chance to edit his book and there it was a Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy reference. It got me thinking about how much writing a 5 year IT plan is like Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

How can IT planning be like Hitchhiker’s guide to the Galaxy? I certainly don’t need a towel. The Earth getting destroyed and rebuilt doesn’t have anything to do with IT plans. I have never seen dolphins thanking us for fish in an IT plan. Finding a strategy had nothing to do with finding true love on a ship with an infinite improbability drive. The connection is of course 42.

The connection is that the pan-dimensional beings in the beginning are looking for the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything.  The answer is of course 42, but then no one understands because the question is formed poorly.  Such is the life of an IT Strategist the plans that we build can be simple, insightful, measurable, conquerable and time bound. However most of the time in the rear view mirror of life those plans have little to do with where we end up in 5 years. Consider the Internet of Things (IoT) . While the term was coined in 1999, it did not get widespread use until 2014. Very few IT plans had IoT in them in 2013. Since Moore’s law roughly says that technology doubles every 2 years how can we have a 5 year planning cycle? The answer of course is 42.

The answer is quite correct but the question is formed poorly. We are asking to plan something that can not be planned. In my article on 5 year IT planning I suggest and still suggest that part of the plan needs to be what will be accomplished in 5 years. I do that knowing full well that it is not what will be done in 5 years. So why bother? We bother because to paraphrase from Ara Parseghian who said “A good coach will make his players see what they can be rather than what they are.”  A plan does not show us exactly where we are going but paints a picture of what we might become. The key being what we might become.

A plan is meant to energize and give vision of the journey. As I stated last week, it is not to put in place tactics or actions to complete over the time period. A plan needs to be our compass for that journey. When we don’t know what we should do, turning to our plan should provide a direction in which we should go to solve that problem. However, a plan should focus on avoiding problems. A plan should focus on positive outcomes not on preventing negatives. My golf coach always said look at the green not the lake. Where you focus your attention is where the ball will go. Focus your plan on a successful future and that is where you will go. It may not have been where you intended but it will have been a successful journey.

Why do we build 5 year IT plans? 42 of course.


About the author:

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


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