Friday, May 26, 2006

There is no such thing as IT Strategy

Its been a rant of mine for a long-time that IT strategy should be consigned to the scrapheap. Unless your companies business is truly just IT, in which case IT = business, all there should be is business strategy and then IT should work out the best way to implement it.

IT Strategy is the thing that decides to build the big "EAI Infrastructure" or "SOA Infrastructure" or basically "cool stuff we'd like on our CV".

If you are thinking about embarking on an IT Strategy project, just stop and ask yourself a simple question:

Is this a strategy for IT or a business problem that needs solving?

If its just for IT then stop, you are about to embark on the traditional waste of money in the creation of Powerpoint, at best, or the spending of millions, or tens of millions, of pounds in pointless IT solutions.

A critical point of the business driven approach to SOA is that it needs to be driven by the business view. This means that its time for the Powerpoint to take a backseat and IT to ask the simple question

What does the business what to do?

All that IT should be doing is looking to solve this problem. This means that IT should be feeding back opportunities for the business that matter to them and not bother with great big strategies that start with the premise that everything can be solved with technology.

IT strategy is for people who want to do Powerpoints. Business Strategy Delivery is for people who want to get the job done.

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Anonymous said...

So you don't believe in Enterprise Architecture engagements around strategy?

Steve Jones said...

If they are about delivering the business strategy then yes, and working out how IT can enable and deliver that then yes. If its about creating an IT strategy, then at a later date aligning that to the business, or creating an IT strategy that has the business as "one of many" rather than the primary (or even only) driver... then no. But then I wouldn't class the later as Enterprise Architecture, but as IT architecture.

Bjorkegren said...

Well, I'm just studying the IT strategy phenomena, and come to something like the same conclusion. What is a strategy? The base definition is about competition and defining the business sandbox, and from that point of view IT is just one of many tools to achieve the goals.
So, the only stratgy remaining is the business strategy...

Anonymous said...

This logic sort of works for technology strategy.

But what is more often referred to as IT strategy is the strategy for an IT department. E.g. what is my strategy for improving the way my IT department works through things like its operating model, sourcing model, business-engagement model, roles and skills mix, the vendor relationships etc etc).

I don't think you meant to suggest that this kind of IT strategy didn't exist ? I know plenty of CIOs who would feel it is rather key to their job !

Steve Jones said...

I'm not saying that IT shouldn't have a plan for the future. Just that IT strategy as a discipline in its own right is on dodgy ground. The way I think of it is this, Wellington had strategy, the cavalry just worked out the best way to implement that strategy. Unfortunately in IT we dress up this implementation plan in fancy terms, and then unfortunately believe our own hype.

I think a reason that many CIOs are moving towards the business is exactly because the previous one got hosed for having an IT strategy that ignored the business!

Anonymous said...

Of course there is something called IT Strategy.. however the business architecture needs to drive it simple as that.