Your organization is considering whether to install SharePoint, and you are now envisioning what it can do for your company. But you also need to consider costs versus benefits, keeping in mind your company’s directive of “being more strategic with IT spending”. The time has come for your team to clearly define an IT strategy to guide your upcoming SharePoint deployment. OMG.
This article outlines a series of simple, common-sense steps to help define and implement a strategy that is aligned with the business, while simultaneously not being a huge distraction to operational work.
This article presents a different approach to typical “strategy sessions” which generally lead to a long-winded document, rife with complex diagrams, impressive-sounding technologies, and perhaps even some Excel clippings (with financial machinations in an attempt to give the whole thing an air of business legitimacy).
Q: Can you define what a strategy is?
A: A strategy is a plan of action designed to achieve a specific, long-term goal or result. This plan of action has explicit methods and maneuvers designed to accomplish pre-defined goals, but it can also be steered to perhaps achieve a level of differentiation against the competition, or to gain a competitive advantage. A strategy can also be implemented to guide and drive the overall aim of an organization.
The time dimension of a strategy should be subdivided into definable milestones and should include employees, shareholders, vendors, and customers. Obviously, time-frames will vary by organization and project type.
Strategies, however, are not tactical plans detailing the technical implementation of a technology your company is interested in. If your “strategy document” mentions IP addresses, networking equipment, or server farms, it’s likely that your original initiative has mutated. Strategies are usually defined by senior management who do not want to be bogged down with technical details; developers and administrators generally dislike and don’t participate in long strategy sessions.
A strategy could even be considered proactive observation: gathering information on the activities of specific departments, the company as a whole, the marketplace, the competition, and making decisions based on an analysis of this data.
Q: What is an IT strategy?
A: An IT strategy is a plan to achieve specific IT goals and results. In short, it is a roadmap of what, when, and why, regarding the IT ideas/initiatives that have been agreed on between the business users and IT department. These goals should be defined by both the business and IT department. They need to balance competing objectives from multiple departments, take into consideration the breadth of the goals, prioritize them, and reclassify accordingly. Who makes the ultimate decision on the prioritization depends on the organization’s structure and internal politics. If the CTO/CIO report to the CFO, then the priorities tend to swing towards reducing costs. If the reporting structure is to the CEO, then the
priorities reflect company growth. Additional priorities that may overlap into an IT strategy include marketing and brand recognition of the organization.
An IT strategy is a journey which leads to a series of milestones, perhaps defined and redefined quarterly, annually, or every five years (yes this is a long term in IT). These milestones should be shared among all senior management, employees, and contractors involved in the projects.
It is not a single meeting and a series of PowerPoint slides to impress management that are then e-mailed to a group. Someone senior within the organization must be accountable for the process.
Typical strategies could be aligned with your organizational goal, along with the assumption that most of the IT goals aid business operations.
Q: How do you create a SharePoint IT strategy?
A: The business and IT department need to meet and discuss objectives and capabilities. This will take more than an hour. Depending on how large the organization is, the strategy meeting would take at least a day, perhaps two and it would be beneficial to have an outside person with SharePoint expertise facilitate the discussions.
Before embarking on an IT strategy specific to SharePoint, it would be a good idea to understand the capabilities of this technology. Before scheduling any strategy meetings, it’s important to understand, at least at a high level, the value that SharePoint brings to an organization, what it takes to achieve this value in terms of time, money, and resources, and also what SharePoint will not solve or fix (such as bad business methodologies).
Have a strategy workshop.
Q: What is the intended outcome of the workshop?
A: This workshop’s findings will need to be discussed with other senior management to determine who will be the ultimate budget and resource approvers. For post-workshop conversations, the deployment roadmap approach figure at the beginning of the article provides a visual description of the roadmap for management’s understanding, as well as a Gap Analysis. This tool identifies where your organization currently is with its SharePoint deployment, and defined future steps. The following figure is a typical Gap Analysis that shows the current and future states that relate to the organization’s technology, people, and processes. It asks two core questions: “Where are we?” and “Where do we want to be?” By asking these questions, management has the opportunity to allocate resources to projects and initiatives, and to identify the gaps between goals and resource allocations. This tool does involve determining, documenting, and approving the variance between business requirements and current capabilities.
If you wish, the Gap Analysis tool can be used to benchmark your goals with other companies and other assessments. Once the general expectation of performance in the industry is understood, it is possible to compare that expectation with the company’s current level of performance.
This article is an extract from the book: Microsoft SharePoint for Business Executives: Q&A Handbook co- written by Peter Ward