Three Plan Types
IT’s general support to the Business-Technology Weave can be effectively planned and managed through three major plan types. These are the high-level, across-the-board support plans – which acknowledge and mark the upcoming projects.
We’ll refer to these IT-Business support plans as the Five-Year Plan, the One-Year Plan, and the Individual Action Plan. You may wish to label these plans differently in your organization; you may need to look further into the future with a ten-year plan – or more. But here we’ll use these generic names for ease. Let’s take a brief look at each plan type, how it relates to the other plan types, and how together they help maintain your directed change, and adjustment to outside, impacting, change.
The Five-Year Plan
The Five-Year Plan begins with the upcoming (next) calendar year, and extends through each of the upcoming five years. The upcoming first year becomes the organization’s detailed One-Year Plan, upon the turn of that new year. Therefore, the first year of the Five-Year Plan should contain everything you intend to do in the upcoming year. Since the One-Year Plan is the near-term focus for what needs doing, it should be as detailed as necessary – it is executable in that it has been vetted and sanctioned, is budgeted, has been announced, and all preparatory steps have been taken for each element of the plan. It matches the organization’s business expectations, needs, and overall business plan for the year. Also, the One-Year Plan spawns all of the detailed project plans and individual action plans as necessary for the organization’s various managed projects and changes. The organization’s overall project management benefits from the coordinated tracking on the Five and One-Year plans; supports, dependencies and competition for resources can be adjusted in maintaining optimal results.
The Plan’s Progression: Years Two, Three, Four and Five are progressively less detailed, respectively, as you consider periods of time that are further out from “now.” Looking out to Year Five, we can see that in a year’s time, its detail and plan moves into the Year Four slot; the former Year Four is now Year Three, and so on. At each turn-of-year, a new Year Five is added to the back of the plan. As each year of the Five-Year Plan marches toward you, it is massaged into better focus; adjusted according to changing business priorities or objectives; availability of resources; advancing technology; changing environment; and new methods and practices. There is an ongoing maintenance for the organization’s alignment of business and technology. Eventually, our original Year Five clicks forward, having evolved and focused according to needs, until it moves into position as the One-Year Plan. In this manner, we find that a properly maintained Five-Year Plan can efficiently generate a comprehensive, executable, sanctioned, and aligned One Year Plan. This means that an organization’s staff is fully informed and qualified to tackle the forthcoming changes, and changes align with business needs in fulfilling expectations accurately, comprehensively, and efficiently.
At any given time, we can expect that Year-Two doesn’t have quite the focus or detail as Year-One – however, most major initiatives are known and a fair amount of detail is present. The more distant years will have large bullet items without a lot of detail, because technology and business factors change, sometimes radically, over a period of years. Your Years-Four and Five may even contain rather whimsical “wish-list” type of items, just to keep them on the radar. Your organization may have potential mergers or acquisitions under consideration, which will require different technology and business practices – these considerations can call for placeholders on the plan, ensuring some exploratory discussion and gathering of pertinent information. These efforts establish and define a ‘where we are,’ also project a ‘where we’re going,’ and ensure the start of a bona-fide, progressive, route for future actualization.
The Plan’s Direction and Flexibility: Planned items can go one of two ways: Some things become certified as bona-fide objectives, and additional detail is accumulated and added to the plan. Just as importantly, other things may be dropped due to a change in business priorities. Likewise, other things may pop on as completely new items. The flexibility of the plan means that you may “bump back” certain items over the course of a couple months, or even years – maintaining them as placeholders – perhaps until a return-on-investment threshold is reached. Other things may “heat up” and slide forward.
At the same time, the Five-Year Plan cannot simply be a receptacle for every crazy brainstorm or trendy practice that comes along. It must represent a managed plan that adheres to the true needs of the organization, as best as you can determine them at any given time.
The Five-Year Plan (or any long range plan) also does something else that’s very important: it should not only expose dependencies, but should also show vulnerabilities and strengths. For example, if your plan is to implement a new content management system in the course of the next few years, you may need to consider an upgrade to your hardware platform and infrastructure. Your plan may have to accommodate new fileservers and workstations, for example. You’ll have a significant training and support burden. Once that decision is made, it may be evident that another project that was waiting for these upgrades can now move forward. The preparation and timing for implementation of many things will coordinate nicely through the plan.
Remember: As the first year of the Five-Year Plan becomes the current year, that part becomes the new year’s One-Year Plan. The Five-Year Plan adds a year at the end of its range, is populated as necessary over the course of time, and all years are updated and tuned accordingly. A properly maintained Five-Year Plan not only means that you know where you are, and where you’re going, but also means that you’ll always have your One-Year Plan ready at the beginning of each year. In fact, you’ll have one-year plans under development for each of the next five years. That is managing change as a continuum. Also keep in mind that you can project further if you feel you need to. Just remember to match your time and effort to the likelihood that a particular plan objective will actually be undertaken.
Coming: The One Year Plan, and the Individual Action Plan.
October 31st:On this day in 1956 Brooklyn, NY ended streetcar service.