by Chris Potts

IT Strategy 3.0

Jan 15, 20083 mins
IT Leadership

Corporate strategies for IT are entering their third and potentially final generation.  An upcoming conference, entitled “IT Strategy 3.0 – Staying Ahead”, is dedicated to exploring the collaborative and convergent future that these strategies are now both creating and exploiting.

It’s going to be my privilege to deliver the opening keynote, “IT Strategy is Dead. Now What?”, at the April 2008 IT Strategy 3.0 conference in Sydney, Australia.  The conference organizers – BTELL – have assembled IT leaders from private enterprise and government across Australia and New Zealand, as well as some globe-trotting specialists like me.  We’re there to explore the practical and commercial implications of the latest seismic shifts in the way organisations formulate and execute their corporate strategies for IT.

Even the choice of title is thought-provoking.   While much of the world seems to be on ‘anything 2.0’ (except for Bruce Willis), strategies for IT are already on 3.0 so that they can pull the latest developments in the best strategic direction.

So if we’re on IT Strategy 3.0, what were 1.0 and 2.0?  Here’s my take.

The first generation of IT Strategies focused on technologies and the people who delivered them.  At its heart were technology roadmaps, IT organisation models and IT outsourcing.  The operating model was founded on company-wide control of the IT agenda. 

The next generation, 2.0, is characterised by those organisations who responded to the increasing obsolescence of IT Strategy 1.0 by deciding to have no formal corporate-level strategy for IT.   They replaced the old control-based operating model with one centred on IT service management and the ‘alignment’ of IT with the rest of the business, so recognising business leaders’ accountabilities for investment decisions and the creation of value from IT.    

Alongside the benefits of IT Strategy 2.0, its downside has been the growing diversity of informal – or ‘de-facto’ – business-led mini-strategies for IT, further fuelled by developments such as Web 2.0 and with no overall strategy to steer them.  And in the absence of anything formal, the corporate-level de-facto strategy for IT has been executives’ determination to constrain IT costs, usually with limited understanding of what connects these costs with the creation of value, or indeed what causes IT costs in the first place.  To make matters worse, in some cases the unfortunate kneejerk reaction to this ‘strategy’ has been to defend or justify the IT costs, rather than encourage everyone to explore what causes them and what value people create from them.

As you would expect, IT Strategy 3.0 samples the best elements of its predecessors and learns the lessons of their shortcomings.  It places these in an overall strategic context where the people that invest in and use technology know best how to create value from it; where convergence (not alignment) is the basic operating model;  where the true value of constraining IT costs is understood and carefully applied; and collaboration is the main engine of success.

As the focus of value creation in the world of IT is shifting from producers to consumers, the third generation of strategies for IT is already there, pulling everyone in the most promising direction.  And as convergence and collaboration demolish the old IT Strategy 1.0 and 2.0 boundaries between ‘IT’ and ‘the business’, the third generation strategies for IT may well be the last ones we’ll ever see.  Organisations will be systemically making the best technology-related decisions at both micro and macro levels, while CIOs and their teams will have moved on up to greater things

Should be a great conference.  Get there if you can!