Improving IT Planning in 2010

Just finished reading Chris Curran’s article on titled How to Improve Your IT Planning in 2010 – – Business Technology Leadership.  Good article with some survey results that are very surprising.  A snippet from the article:

Diamond’s Digital IQ research, in which we surveyed 451 senior business and IT executives of large companies, found that firms spend roughly 240 man weeks per year on planning and budgeting—almost five man years! Think about what could be accomplished with 80% of that time back in the hands of your senior-most leaders. Roughly 25% of this effort is geared toward collecting the project ideas, another 25% toward preparing business cases, and only about 15% on linking the initiatives to the strategic roadmap. Our study also found that the presence of a multi-year strategic roadmap is a strong indicator of company performance, but that only 37% claim to have a clear roadmap. So, to get leaner in planning a company needs to get a clear roadmap and spend more time aligning to it and less time on (tactical) data collection.

Emphasis mine.

Interesting results.  That’s an awful lot of planning for some awful poor performance that we see in most IT groups today.  What can we do differently?

That last sentence in Chris’ points the way. Instead of spending so much time with IT planning and budgeting, why not start looking at building a strategic IT roadmap that aligns to business objectives and much less time on gathering operational and planning data that may not have any real value in the planning process.

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Information Technology Challenges

I asked the following question on LinkedIn earlier this week and received some very insightful responses:

What are the top challenges in IT organization’s today?

In reading the various magazines, blogs and websites out there (, etc) on the subject, I’ve come to the conclusion that there are many many issues facing IT groups today. What are the top challenges that most IT organizations are facing today? What is keeping CIO’s up at night in today’s environment?

If you haven’t tried out LinkedIn yet, you should…there are some great folks over there as well as some excellent information available in the Questions / Answers Section.

I received some excellent responses…and most were on target with my own thoughts.  Prior to asking the question, I thought that the issues that were in the front of many IT leaders were:

  • Find and Keeping Talent
  • Business / IT Alignment
  • IT Strategy
  • Outsourcing

The responses received from other LinkedIn users seem to back up my original thoughts.  There were other issues listed (System integration, Merger and Acquisition Due Diligence, etc) that were very interesting to see as well.

It’s interesting to get the feedback from people in the field on what they see as huge issues.  An interesting point to note, none of the responses seemed to be from CIO’s of an organization…all were from people who seem to be at a more tactical level than strategic level.

Why is this important?  To me, it says that there are a lot of people in IT with the business savvy to see the challenges that is facing them and their organization.  Why then are these same IT folks being told that they aren’t “business savvy” and need to start speaking “like business people“?  It sounds to me like there are plenty of business savvy people in IT but very few people on the ‘business’ side of things that have really reached out to these folks to get their opinions.

Any additional challenges for IT groups that have been overlooked (either in my post or in the responses on LinkedIn)?

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Factors affecting Productivity – IT, Management and Process

Bit Literacy: Productivity in the Age of Information and E-mail Overload

Interesting analysis today over on Jeffrey Phillips’ Thinking Faster Blog in an article titled “Productivity Barriers“.

Note: if you have an interest in productivity in this digital age, check out Bit Literacy: Productivity in the Age of Information and E-mail Overload (Affiliate Link)…great book.

In the article, Phillips discusses a recent newsletter from IFS (an ERP software vendor) that discussed the issues of usability of ERP systems. In the newsletter, IFS relates survey results that tried to, in Phillips’ words, understand:

…how much of a barrier the enterprise software most of us use everyday presents to becoming more productive

The research that IFS presented is quite interesting (click here to read the results on In addition to looking at usability, the research looked at productivity and asked questions around what factors caused a loss in productivity in the organization. The results aren’t surprising…results included things like (not in any order):

  • too many emails
  • too much work
  • lack of clear priorities
  • poor IT optimization
  • too many meetings

The survey respondents were than asked to supply factors that effected their own productivity and, again, the results aren’t really that surprising…results included things such as unclear objectives, not enough resources, too many meetings, etc etc.

What I found most interesting was Phillips’ take on the root causes of the above issue. He writes:

  • Unclear objectives/priorities – poor management strategic direction and communication
  • Too many meetings – poor management skills and time management
  • Too much work/Lack of resources – downsizing and “doing more with less”
  • IT not optimized/doesn’t work the way the company works – inflexible technology supporting a business that is required to be flexible and change
  • So, in my simple analysis, many of the issues related to productivity have to do with clear management direction and communication, and the ability to communicate what’s important. Additionally, in today’s market, flexibility and adaptability are just as important as established processes and operational excellence, but our technology, systems and processes aren’t designed that way.

Jeffrey Phillips’ hits it on the head.

Most problems with productivity today can be traced to a few factors (at least in my experience). These are:

  1. Poor Alignment of Information Technology and/or IT Process to the Business goals – If your organization needs to be flexible, don’t put in an inflexible IT system and/or IT process.
  2. Reliance on formal IT process – Process is good. Process is necessary. Create process to allow for flexibility, speed and change. Most processes today in the IT world do not follow this mantra. They are created and then their creators expect people to follow them closely with no deviation and no room for change.
  3. Poor Communication – Managers need to understand that in order to get the most of their teams, they need to clearly outline the responsibilities and expectations of the people in their teams. Without this clear communications, people will spend time trying to determine what they should be doing and/or who should be doing it.
  4. Poor Leadership – with good leadership, an organization can overcome many things. Excellent leaders will overcome poor process (by changing the process), poor alignment (by aligning IT and business), and poor communication (by ensuring communication improves).

Phillips’ analysis of the results of the IFS study were right on the mark….or at least they match up with my own thougths 🙂

Aligning Business and Technology with People

Mike Schaffner posted an interesting article titled “Hiring the Right / Wrong IT People to Achieve Alignment” in which he pointed at a recent article by Dr. George E. Strouse titled “Are You Hiring the Wrong IT Staff to Achieve Your Alignment Goals?” that appeared on Check both articles out.

An excerpt from Dr. Strouse’s article sum’s the topic up nicely:

The real problem underlying the IT business alignment conundrum is that we’re not hiring the right people in IT. The right people need strong backgrounds in both business and technology. Most IT hiring managers place too much emphasis on strong technology backgrounds.

As regular readers may know, I’ve written about this topic a few times (see here, here and here for a few samples).

I’ve spent a good portion of my career working with organization’s trying to align their business strategy with their technology. I’ve found is that the difference between success and failure in this activity is found within the people that the organization has hired.

The majority of these organizations who were successful had employees within the IT organization that could ‘speak’ to the business side of the company. The IT group wasn’t strictly technologists…they were technologists with business backgrounds. Those organizations that struggled with aligning their technology with their business goals were the ones that placed an emphasis on technology knowledge over business knowledge.

Mike Schaffner relates an interesting antecdote on this topic:

I once had a CEO tell me that one of the things she wanted in IT was people that “talk like us” meaning they understand business issues and can explain things in business terms rather than just business terms.

I’ve had similar conversations with CxO’s as well. They are tired of hearing acronyms and technology buzzwords…many just want to understand how technology can help the business achieve it’s goals.

Interesting things to think about…as are the Related Articles below. Enjoy!

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