The role of business-IT innovation is to ensure that an organization is effective in identifying, responding to, and pursuing strategy-consistent uses of IT. Business-IT innovation, however, does not begin or end with IT strategic planning. Instead, it should be treated as a business activity that overlaps strategic planning yet is handled and managed independent of it.
By comparing IT strategic planning with business-IT innovation, this Executive Update explores some of the shortcomings of IT strategic planning and presents a vision for how the business-IT innovation function can help address them.
SHORTCOMINGS OF IT STRATEGIC PLANNING
IT Strategic Planning Is Time-Bound
IT strategic planning occurs within a predetermined timetable that tends to be correlated with the budgeting cycle. It is typically an annual event, with semiannual or quarterly reviews and adjustments. It is time-bound — and it had better not delay the budgeting process. At its conclusion, IT strategic planning produces a specific set of deliverables, of which the strategic IT plan itself is the main product.
In contrast, business-IT innovation takes place on a continuous basis. It contributes to the IT plan and later to adjustments to it, but, as an activity, it is not driven by the schedule associated with strategic planning. Instead, it is driven by changing business strategies, IT innovation in the marketplace, competitive pressures in the application of IT, and everyday business insight. And above all, it is driven by the imperative to protect, strengthen, and enable a company’s competitive advantage; that imperative itself cannot depend on the IT strategic planning cycle.
IT Strategic Planning Is Reactive
When executed with a top-down perspective, IT strategic planning reacts to business plans, goals, and objectives. Even if proactive scenario planning is employed to devise strategic alternatives for the business, IT strategic planning typically responds with specific IT options for each such scenario — again, in a reactive manner. When approached with a bottom-up perspective, IT strategic planning reacts to internal IT project requests by analyzing, collating, and prioritizing them in response.
Business-IT innovation, on the other hand, is about actively participating in the crafting of business plans, goals, and objectives, and proactively anticipating and shaping business requirements as they pertain to IT. Business-IT innovation conceptualizes and articulates IT-based investment opportunities as well as defensive actions. And it treats the IT dimension as an integral component of business thought and action.
IT Strategic Planning Seeks to Narrow Down Requests
Anyone who understands how the IT floodgates open in the face of the advent of IT strategic planning can identify with the overwhelming urge to winnow down, exclude, disqualify, and consolidate requests. After all, the goal is to produce the optimal, manageable, and realistic set of IT-based proposals. Like an HR professional inundated with a stack of r