It started out well.
Meeting at a little known restaurant, downtown yet hidden away from the walking hipsters of urban life. It had both flair and elegance, delivered by professional staff and a very encouraging owner. The menu was inspiring, a variety of game meat accompanied by legumes of the season and flavors of both the region and the whim of the masterful chefs who prepared them. I had the thinly sliced and battered mighty Elk of the great province of Alberta draped over salted asparagus and a variety of mini versions of vegetables seemingly from the carrot family.
The first bottle of wine was sent back, that was the first sign of trouble. I didn't appreciate how “particular” my dining companion was going to be until the manager on duty had to take a sip to verify the missing “ending”, then spend at least 10 minutes discussing the history of that particular vintage with the table. It wasn't as engrossing of a tale as you might think.
Unfortunately that one episode, started a series of discussions illuminating the exact amount of knowledge I possess in three topics: Whiskey, Formula 1, and Cigars.
I know, as a contemporary gentleman like myself you would assume I am well versed in the finer things in life, however I know exactly DIDDLY-SQUAT about any of those topics. In fact, that assessment is likely an over statement to the amount of knowledge I possess with the exception of:
- Whiskey is some sort of beverage, and I highly recommend not suggesting there is any equivalence to Scotch or Rye
- I have been to the Grand Prix in Montreal, however not on the Sunday
- I literally know nothing about cigars; I couldn't even make up an example
As I sat silently for 2 hours, pretending to listen, I found myself wondering why we didn't discuss IT Strategy; because as we all know, IT strategy drives a ridiculous amount of entertaining discussion. (Note: I wasn't actually wondering that, but works well as a transition to the second part of the blog…I was “actually” thinking about how smooth tasting the latte I had a few hours earlier).
I imagine the conversation proceeding thusly:
Me: Tell me about your strategy….
The other guy: Certainly. What we really need to do is consolidate our storage, and find a few hundred thousand dollars from our budget. And I have to get that done by the end of the year.
Me: Interesting, and I bet we can help, but tell me about your business, and what goals you have over the long run…maybe 3 years from now.
The other guy: Well, I don’t have it written down, but my plan would be to fully implement a Cloud in that time.
Me: Sure, that seems reasonable given technology trends, but why? What business opportunity or objective is driving that plan?
The other guy: (awkward silence) Well…that’s where I may need some help. I really need to formalize my technology strategy.
Me: (taking a deep breath) Great, another thing we can help with….here would be our recommended approach:
As the CIO, you should be endeavoring to draft 2 different but equally valuable strategies: 1) The Business Strategy for IT, and 2) The Technology Strategy, and in that order.
The BUSINESS STRATEGY would describe the overall IT departmental vision specifically how it implements the long term business strategy for the company as a whole and would traditionally include:
- Corporate business strategy and objectives, articulation of the future state of IT department (people, process, governance, risk, tooling, etc), SWOT, new or updated departmental mission/vision, 3 year "pillars" of change (ie what three themes are required to achieve the 3 year future state) and associated roadmaps for each, and a new operating/org model (because as we all know, the org chart DEFINES the operating model). It is especially important to map all technology departmental objectives and vision to the corporate objectives so that it’s obvious how IT participates in the organizational success as a whole.
The TECHNOLOGY STRATEGY describes the long term direction (appreciating there is no such thing as "end state" in technology) and traditionally is decomposed into various technology disciplines for more specificity in content and roadmaps. The "overall" technology strategy is described using strategic thinking (visioning the desired state without political/regulatory/budget constraints then working backwards to current state applying constraints as necessary). The overall technology strategy REQUIRES external perspective including industry technology trends, vendor innovation and roadmaps, and impact of business evolution) to be valid, internal only perspective creates unnecessary limitation in creativity.
- The technology strategy detail is described in sub strategies based on technology discipline and minimally includes: enterprise architecture (governance/model), data centre strategy, compute/storage strategy (including cloud and converged), security/risk strategy, service management strategy, and enterprise information management strategy. Each sub component would contain specific reference architectures, and associated roadmaps with proof in how they deliver on BOTH the business strategy of IT AND the desire to move the need on technological innovation.
- For example, within the Enterprise Information Management the general goal would be to elevate data from being a "side effect" of application development, and something to be not only protected but to become the main asset/purpose of IT by implementing an Enterprise perspective. Examples would include: creating a single organization to include storage, dba, backup, data architects, MIS, and analytics teams; creating an enterprise data/domain model; change naming conventions of databases to be peers to applications; etc.
(and breath in)
We have some time before our gelato’s, why not start with the future state of IT….lets brainstorm, given any dimension, how would you like your IT shop “look and feel” like in 3 years…..
This is where the real debate begins….and it will get ugly. So much so, I envision at least one of us going home with a Elizabethan collar from the local veterinarian. Those “particular” people fight dirty.