IT Vision is an abstract statement of the desired IT Capability.
- It is a statement of aspiration ("What do we want")
- It concerns itself with the future. ("to become when")
- It encompasses all dimensions of IT Capability. ("we")
- It implies improvement. ("grow up!")
The IT Vision for a company describes a clear picture of where it's leaders want IT to be and must be aligned with the overall vision for the organization. It clarifies the purpose and provides the focus and direction for the desired future state of the company that would be achieved by developing and deploying Information Technology.
Purpose of an IT Vision
To understand the value of managing to a vision, you must first understand the nature of the IT function within business. IT management responsibilities are typically carried out by internal IT organizations (departments). These organizations serve a dual function. On one hand, IT departments operate to serve business interests (maximizing technology investments to fulfill business goals and objectives). On the other hand, they also fill the day-to-day "usage" needs of the end-users (employees of the business) as they perform assigned tasks and fill assigned responsibilities. This makes the end-users the front line “consumers” of internal IT services. One would assume that business and end-user interests are really one and the same – but they’re not. In reality, business interests and end-user demands often conflict. Business interests exist at a high level, reflected in standards and policies, and end-user demands are day to day, boots on the ground, centering on the need to get work done. Sometimes one gets in the way of the other, creating a perception that IT is a roadblock rather than a partner. Having a strategic vision is one of the most valuable and effective ways to deal with this conflict, serving to ensure that business interests and front-line service needs are properly aligned to the fullest extent possible. How does it work? A good vision is all encompassing, covering every key IT service element, including how IT is organized, the specific services provided, expected service levels, and the way IT interacts with the end-user community.
Creating an IT Vision
Rather than focus on what worked yesterday, CIOs and other IT management team members should focus on where they think the organization should go in the future. Too many executives are comfortable with the way things worked in the past, but with constant technological change, this is no longer viable. In other words a CIO has to create the map, not just follow one. Creating a realistic IT vision and then selling that vision to other executives takes thought and planning. CIOs must consider what is going to work tomorrow, not yesterday and be firm in their belief that what they are proposing is the best thing for the company. A CIO will need more than just facts and figures – they will need to be great storytellers too. They’ll have to paint a compelling picture of their vision, how it will benefit the organization and the quickest route to get there. In order to create a realistic vision that other executives will appreciate, consider following these tips:
- Treat IT like a business: Many organizations struggle with trying to make sure that IT doesn’t become too enamored by technology. This results in the deployment in new services just because they are cutting edge. Treat your vision and your IT department like a business – make choices based on how much is being spent on projects and who is driving those expenditures.
- Embrace the cloud: Many organizations are turning to the cloud for their disaster recovery strategy. This is a smart corporate move, particularly when you look at organizations that have lost major revenues and data due to natural disasters. Security and costs are typically in line with an organization’s disaster recovery plan. The cloud can also help with making mobile apps and other platforms.
- Eliminate the word “workstation” from your vocabulary: There has been a rapid transition from the traditional ‘workstation’ at a desk to a more modern personal device that an employee can use anywhere. Forward-thinking CIOs encourage the use of personal devices for work purposes, and some organizations allow employees to spend a certain amount every year on new technology. Part of the IT vision should include a policy so that employees understand how they can access the data, and of course, protect the data.
- Increase Social Marketing: It may have taken several years, but many organizations have finally gone social, albeit grudgingly. CIOs understand that social media is not a fad and is not going away anytime soon. If an organization is using social media as part of their marketing strategy, they should increase it even more. This strategy involves learning how consumers are finding media, how they’re reading it and what drives them to purchase. Once that has been understood, then a strategy can be put in place to meet those consumer needs.
Principles of a Successful IT Vision
Successful IT visions fill each role by sticking to four (4) key principles:
- Alignment: To ensure that the IT organizational model, and all related operational services and duties are properly aligned with all underlying business goals and objectives. Alignment reflects an IT operation "that makes sense" considering the business served, its interests and operational imperatives.
- Engagement: To ensure that all IT “vision” stakeholders are fully engaged in technology related planning and the operational parameters of the IT service portfolio. IT stakeholders include the IT performing organization (IT Department), company executives and the end-users.
- Best Practices: To ensure that IT operates in a standardized fashion, relying on practical management standards and strategies properly sized to technology needs and organizational capabilities.
- Committment to Customer Service: To ensure that IT services are provided in a timely, high quality manner, designed to fill the operational needs of the front-line end-users, working within the boundaries established by business interests and technology best practices.