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Prioritizing Time to Get Started on Strategic Planning

In my last blog 3 Steps an IT manager Should Take to Earn Their Seat on the Board, I talked about how to create a successful strategy for an IT organization.


Even if you understand what needs to be done to create your strategy, it can be very difficult to get started. One challenge you may face is that an IT service provider has to manage what it does over three very different timescales:

  • Operational – dealing with the incidents, problems and changes that are affecting the service right now. Operational timescales can range from a few minutes to a few days.
  • Tactical – planning and implementing the projects and changes that will satisfy current and expected business demand. Tactical timescales vary from a few days to a year or more.
  • Strategic – understanding trends in customers and markets, ensuring that you have the right services to satisfy long term needs, and optimizing your organization to deliver these in the best possible way. Strategy can take weeks or months to define – and years to implement.

Operational issues may be very urgent, and this can force strategic planning to be postponed. Similarly, issues relating to projects may prevent strategic work from making progress. The benefit that can be gained from investing time and effort in each of these areas is often the reverse of this urgency.

  • Strategic planning can help to transform the business, resulting in major improvements in business value, quality and cost of IT.
  • Tactical improvements can help to grow the business, by satisfying customer needs and reducing short term costs.
  • Operational activities, at best, result in maintaining the current situation by resolving an incident, for example.

An organization that spends all its time reacting to emergencies needs to find a way to pause, take a breath, and start strategizing. We use a three step approach to help our customers do this:

  1. The first step is to ensure that key stakeholders understand the potential benefits of taking a strategic approach. If all the stakeholders really understand the consequences of not having a strategy then this will help them to correctly prioritize their time.  This step should include formally identifying the stakeholders and making sure that you involve the correct stakeholders at the right time.
  2. The second key thing to do is to assign distinct responsibilities for operational, tactical and strategic activities. A manager who is accountable for any two of these will find it extremely difficult to carry out the longer term planning. This step should ensure that appropriate roles and metrics have been defined so that people are both empowered and measured to encourage the activities they need to perform. If a manager is measured on day-to-day service performance then it is unlikely that they will focus on strategic planning.
  3. The third step is to just start doing it. This will require a small team to plan and design the workshops and other activities you need to get started (see 3 Steps an IT manager Should Take to Earn Their Seat on the Board for descriptions of these activities). If the stakeholders really understand the benefits, and if the correct stakeholders have prioritized strategy ahead of operational and tactical responsibilities then it is surprisingly easy to make progress.

After you have made these starting steps, you will find it increasingly easy to focus on strategy and to start moving your whole IT organization from being a consumer of corporate finance to being a creator of corporate value.


Read some of my other blogs for more ideas and suggestions on how you can create your service strategy:

Learn more about HP IT Service Management (ITSM) Services and how we can help you improve the effectiveness and efficiency of your IT operations.


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