by Adam Hartung

IT Strategy: Use Scenario Planning to Get Beyond Legacy Systems

May 14, 2010

Leading IT shops use scenario planning to drive IT strategy and investment decisions.

Most IT planning is organized around studying the systems your company has now and making incremental improvements to them. Planning, in other words, extrapolates from the past. But the best IT shops, the ones that add the most business value, take a different approach. They start by looking ahead, to figure out which technologies will deliver the highest value, regardless of what’s installed now.

Nobody can predict which technologies or vendors will be the big winners. But if you wait until a technology is proven before you use it, competitors will already have the advantage by the time you act. For IT to deliver future value, you have to become a leader in adopting and using new technologies.

Use Your Imagination

To become one of the top IT shops in your industry, start by changing your approach to planning. Focus on the technologies and applications that will position your business for growth, performance and enhanced value. Instead of “trending” toward the future, develop scenarios about what the best-performing, market-leading IT shops are going to look like in 2015, and let these scenarios drive your planning and investments. Work backward to the present in order to figure out what you need to do today to achieve your vision.

Active scenario planning can move you from being a laggard to being a leading IT shop adding maximum value. Consider, what is your budget today for ERP? For PC acquisition and servers? For web development? Looking forward, you can see that the market is quickly moving toward cloud computing and extensive use of mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. Start using market information to envision how these technologies will place you in a leadership position, rather than using legacy decisions to drive your plans.

Adam Hartung is a consultant and author who specializes in innovation. Contact him at