The death of long-term IT planning

Forget the 5-year plan. Knowing what mountain to climb is important, but so is staying flexible about how to get to the top.

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Who doesn’t love a plan, or a planner: if you follow this map, do what this step-by-step plan says, you’re guaranteed success at the end of the road.

The problem with IT architecture planning, though, is that everything is changing all the time. If your company is trying to set a plan that will last five to 10 years down the road, forget it. It’s impossible to set a plan in stone when technology is moving so fast.

“To say you’re going to have a five-year plan on how you’re going to migrate X, there’s a very good chance that X might not exist anymore, or there’s a Y that’s even better,” says Randy Gross, CIO of CompTIA. “The horizon is closer than it ever has been.”

Planning or lack thereof: you’re not alone

In a survey of 500 U.S.-based businesses, CompTIA found that only 34 percent of companies currently develop an IT architecture plan beyond a 12-month window. Small firms (1-99 employees) are least likely to engage in planning activity, with 41 percent doing no planning at all, compared to 20 percent of medium sized companies (100-499 employees) and 12 percent of large sized companies (500+ employees).

The survey also found that a lot of firms don’t think they’re planning very well: 43 percent reported that they’re “in the middle” of technology mindset and practices. Eleven percent said they’re in the lower tier and two percent said they’re near the bottom.

Gross says he was surprised about the lack of confidence by firms about where they’re at in their planning. However, it’s not a bad thing to see this unease quantified, and to talk about it. “The assumption is that everyone is always ahead of you in whatever planning is going on,” he says. “So it was good to see a lot of organizations are trying to figure these things out.”

Instead of feeling intimidated that they’re behind the curve, CIOs can look at this and know that “a lot of folks are still working toward what this is supposed to look like,” he adds.

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