For any business—large or small—it is not only important to set overall goals and objectives, but it is equally critical to develop a plan on how the company, as a whole, will meet them. Most of us know that a process such as corporate strategic planning is the cornerstone of success. But do we know how to really set the goals, plan to meet them, and then stick to the plan—or not stick to it when it’s failing?

It’s a process just like anything else in business. If you know the steps, then you can easily implement it. I’ll go over my checklist for this process from start to finish and explain the “whys” along the way.

No Such Thing as an IS/IT Strategic Plan

Another CIO I know told me years ago that there is no such thing as an IS/IT strategic plan. He said, “There is only one plan and that’s the corporate strategic plan. Everything else needs to fall in line with that.” I would have to agree with my friend, and in fact, say that’s the first step in the process. Understand where the organization is today and where it wants to go in the next couple of years. Once you have that understanding, you can begin to work in everything else.

All Technology Needs Under One Umbrella

Within each enterprise exists multiple functions, each with their own business objectives. This includes IS/IT as a separate Line of Business that has its own operational needs. But all of them need to fit under one umbrella that covers the objectives of the business overall. To get there, everyone needs to step back from their day-to-day operations and ask where the business is headed and what its priorities should be. Think strategically in terms of both short-term and long-term goals to help prioritize objectives aligned with the business’ corporate goals.

Armed with that information, the business units can work with the IS/IT team to understand what each needs to do to contribute to the overall objective and how technology can enable those specific goals.

It’s wise to meet with the LoBs after enterprisewide business objectives are identified. This will help drive the investment plan for the IS/IT organization as part of each business unit’s objectives, and it also allows us to tie the two together. Otherwise, what we end up with is a fixed cost of operations for each business unit, which we all know doesn’t work.

Plan for the Unknowns

So, you’ve got a general idea of the enterprisewide business objective as well as a dollar amount for investment funds. You’ve aligned business unit objectives with both. But with any plan, there will always be unknowns. You should plan for those as well.

Start by identifying anything that could become a distraction or prevent your ability to move forward—such as a lack of resources. Knowing the resource availability to deliver on the investment within the IS/IT organization as well as within the business units will be critical.

Other unknowns won’t be as easy to identify, so it’s important to be agile. Change is constant, and the speed of change is continuously increasing, which means you need to be prepared for it at a second’s notice. It’s a mindset that should be part of your overall strategy. Now, that doesn’t mean you’re bouncing all over the place. It means that your strategy needs to be a living, real-time understanding of all variables and one that’s adaptive to change.

Keeping on Task

You need to have a team dedicated to not only building the corporate strategy, but also charged with monitoring it along the way, and that’s not the IS/IT team. Just like all other LoBs, the IS/IT team will have its own objectives, which will include enabling technology across the board to meet enterprise-level and business-level objectives.

Another important consideration should be communication, which should be part of the strategy itself. The strategy team—which is a mix of representatives from all LoBs—should be tasked with communicating the corporate strategy to the entire business. This will help keep the process on task and serve as a central touch point for everyone involved.

To keep all of it on task, you need to create a corporate mindset of function and enablement across the enterprise. It’s not just about the technology that’s available, but about understanding how that technology can be used to move the corporation forward. Look at the whole picture and work back from that to make sure each LoB is in alignment and on board. It all must come together for a corporate business strategy to be successful.

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