by Patrick Tickle

Think ahead or be left behind

Sep 07, 2018
Digital TransformationIT LeadershipIT Strategy

During annual planning season, forward-thinking organizations visualize the technology landscape that will be required to enable the strategic plan and roadmap. To plan a technology strategy, organizations need to bring technology leaders to the forefront of the planning process.

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Credit: Thinkstock

It’s that festive time of year when manufacturers prepare for the holiday crush, and organizations roll out ambitious strategic plans for the New Year. Companies expecting to launch smart connected products, acquire new customers or hit big financial targets may be shocked when their plans fall short. Companies frequently fail to inventory what they need to deliver against strategy. It’s like having a holiday party and forgetting the food. Technology, the overlooked item on strategic wish lists, provisions almost every corporate initiative. Why on earth are technology leaders not invited to the table?

The reality is, most business executives don’t have the technology acumen to see the ripple effect that a strategy can have on the company’s infrastructure. For example, if a digital commerce business wants to leverage the popularity of visual and voice search, the company could redesign its website and mobile app with the goal of growing revenue by 30 percent within three years. Ask an executive to outline the digital and technology strategy for making it happen, and you might get a blank stare. That’s okay, because you can ask those in the know.

Get in sync with technology leaders

CIOs, CTOs, enterprise architects (EAs), and capability and technology managers know your company’s technology landscape and can anticipate the changes required to deliver new capabilities. This contingent can provide a reality check on technology-enabled strategies, from digital transformation initiatives that could leapfrog your competitors, to Internet of Things (IoT) products that will dazzle customers.

You can bring technology strategy to the forefront of the planning process by engaging with your technology decision makers early and often. If you engage too late, you will likely incur huge costs to upgrade legacy systems, rework underperforming applications or discard work that doesn’t meet industry or customer requirements. Instead, get an early read on how an initiative aligns with the technology stack, how much funding it would take and what resources would be required. Find out whether regulatory or security issues could affect outcomes, when an initiative could realistically deliver and what dependencies could derail it. When you include technology experts in business strategy discussions up front, they’ll ask and answer hard questions about the triple constraints of time, cost and scope.

The right tools connect strategy to delivery

Gartner predicts that for every $1 invested in digital innovation through 2020, businesses will spend another $3 to modernize legacy infrastructure. Having an active technology strategy and roadmap may help reduce that cost. Strategic roadmaps make your plan actionable and track its execution enterprise-wide. Roadmaps illustrate what your organization needs to accomplish to deliver strategic goals. Each strategy statement cascades to the technologies that must be in place, along with the projects that must be executed to make it happen. By visualizing the work to be done, technology roadmaps bridge the communication gap between technology leaders and their business counterparts.

An integrated roadmap that connects strategy, business capabilities, technology and investments can be a powerful tool for enabling better prioritization, trade-offs and alignment. The initiatives required to achieve a strategy can be grouped into a portfolio and managed for contingencies, dependencies, capacity, risk and other factors. What-if analyses demonstrate what happens to delivery timelines if one or more initiatives are delayed, making downstream risks immediately apparent. The right tools can help you avoid the cost of reactionary decisions and architect your company’s evolving technology landscape.

It’s not just about strategy

Planning for transformative change is also about identifying the capabilities and technologies you need to thrive and be profitable. If your organization lacks a foundational capability that is essential to achieving the strategy, such as cross-functional collaboration, it’s better to find out early. Capability and technology managers are positioned to leverage company strengths, strengthen the weaknesses and identify capability gaps that could undermine execution.

Executives are infamous for asking loaded questions like, “How soon can we move IT to the cloud without impacting work and resources?” Only the technology guy knows that such requests come from a lack of understanding about how things work. PwC’s 10th annual Global Digital IQ Survey suggests that companies need to address the skills gap at the top: Educate executives about technology, and encourage collaboration with technology specialists. Otherwise, the disconnect could stall digital transformation initiatives.

It’s tempting to aim high, especially without a clear picture of an initiative’s implications, but the rapid pace of digital innovation may require you to adjust your strategies. Let your technology leaders provide the gut check you need to set a sustainable pace for transformation. They can help architect the strategy for building your company’s digital infrastructure, and together you can create a roadmap that connects strategy to delivery.