Information Technology Management with a Purpose

Aug 27 2012   9:36AM GMT

Strategic thinking

S R Balasubramanian Profile: S R Balasubramanian

The CIO and his role is the topic of many a discussion that take place during seminars. The poor CIO is in focus and hence under pressure to live up to the expectation generated out of these discussions. He is often asked to be more aligned to business and put on an influential role in his organization. He is asked a play a strategic role as against operational responsibilities that he shoulders so admirably. These discussions sure perk up the CIO and make him ready to assume a greater role in business but is often lost in thought not knowing how to go about doing so.

The CIO has to find a way in which he is more useful to the organization and make technology work for the company in its effort to grow and be more profitable. The plan that he makes for IT has to serve the organization’s objectives and goals. He also has to ensure that he selects the most appropriate technologies and solutions to help the company leap a few steps ahead of the competition. That makes his role strategic in which he has to understand company’s direction and goals and also bring in an element of strategy to his IT plans. That can enrich his role and make IT more effective for the business.

The strategic thought process
Even before the CIO starts with his strategic plan, he has to imbibe the strategic thinking process. Strategic thinking is a key thought process of strategic management framework; it is about finding and developing a foresight by exploring all futures and challenging conventional thinking to foster good decision making. This can be done either individually or collaboratively among key people who can positively contribute to the new thinking. Strategic thinking in this case involves understanding the fundamental drivers of business as also awareness about the technology landscape and various technology options available. He has to develop insight into the requirements of business and the right technology solutions that can materially impact organization response to the challenges faced.

Strategic thinking must take into account the following factors:

Alignment: The IT strategy must fit into company’s vision, mission, competitive situations, and operating strengths.

Goal orientation: Understand the goals defined and then set clear expected outcomes and make explicit links between these outcomes and company’s goals. Evaluate technology solutions accordingly.

Fact-based: Best strategies are based on some data, real facts or educated guesses. The logic behind the strategies should be clear and unambiguous. A formal documentation is recommended to set down the assumptions and factors considered for choices made.

Based on broad thinking: In order to keep the company nimble-footed, it will be best to consider multiple alternatives and a range of scenarios to arrive at the select choice. Consider technology solutions that give the company the required agility.

Focus: It is always tempting to do a lot to please everyone but it is important to go by the set of priorities defined by the company and devise an action plan accordingly.

Agreement: It is important to get people on board to work together and support the initiatives. Therefore steps need to be taken to ensure people participate in formulation of the strategy and feel satisfied that multiple view-points were heard before drawing the final plans.

Adaptable: Strategies need to be flexible and adaptable to the changing times and business changes and also based on learning from experimentation and new information. Plans should not be very rigid but one which moulds itself to the changing scenario.

When to start?

The thinking has to begin now. It is best that CIOs train their mind-sets to think strategy and make efforts to understand the situations around them. Strategic thinking is an input for strategic planning and therefore it’s important to get started and apply the thoughts to the factors mentioned above. It may not be a bad idea to seek help where necessary as the objective is to play a more effective role in the organizations that we are in.

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