Anatomy of an IT Strategic Plan

Your plan should focus on business needs, the ability of IT to meet those needs, how to close any gaps, how decisions will be made and how to measure progress.

Timing: Most IT leaders will want to start thinking about the IT strategic plan in the spring to best position themselves for the budgeting cycle.

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An IT organization's firststrategic plan can take anywhere from three months to a year to write.

Time Frame: The plan should cover three to five years, with the most focus on the next 12 to 18 months unless there is a longer-term project on the table.

Medium: Word document and/or PowerPoint presentation. Create an abbreviated version that you can turn to anytime someone has an issue or question. (Novel idea: Consider a podcast if you're operating in a distributed or global organization.)

Length: 15 pages. Or less. If using PowerPoint, 25 slides. Or fewer.

Executive Summary: The plan should begin with a summary targeted for the business audience.

Scope: High-level goals and plans for all areas of information technology that affect the business, not just the infrastructure. A road map for IT is useful in illustrating overall strategy.

Business Context: Lay out the specific business drivers, assumptions and plans that informed the IT strategic plan. (For example, the business is planning to acquire smaller companies so IT's plan is to focus on integration technologies.)

IT Principles: Short statements of purpose that will guide IT decision making and implementation.

Metrics: Put measurements of progress in place when you create the strategic plan instead of waiting for review time to figure it all out. The goal is not precision but the ability to measure appropriate progress toward goals.

Review: You should review the plan and revise it as necessary at least once during the fiscal year. A full review should happen in the spring.

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