IT Transformation – Part 5 – The Five Year Strategy

This is part 5 of the Information Technology Transformation series, creating the “Five Year Strategy”.  This involves creating the “Tracks” of the “Strategy” and defining the “Projects” that make up each “Track”.  Once the “Strategy” is finalised (with priority, timeline and budget), it needs to be approved by Senior Management and then planning and implementation can begin.

This is a six part series describing Information Technology Transformation within a struggling company:

The 5 Year Strategy defines what needs to happen to get from the Baseline to the Target Architecture.


Working out the “Delta”

You have your “Baseline” of where you currently are and you have defined the “Target Architecture” of where you want to be.  Your 5 Year Strategy is the “Delta”, the difference, documenting the changes you need to make to transform your organisation from a People, Process and Technology perspective.

The owners of each area need to define the major “Tracks” with the individual “Projects” required to make that “Track” a reality.  Because it is a 5 year strategy, each “Track” needs a “Priority” that will indicate when it needs to be implemented during the 5 year period.  Each “Project” also has an estimated “Duration” and “Cost” that needs to be defined.

Your job as “Chief Architect” is to ensure that each “Project” and “Track” actually aligns with the Target Architecture and is achievable within the estimated time frame and budget.  Your priority projects should target “low hanging fruit”, provide “quick wins” and relieve critical “pain points”.  Your first year of success will build confidence and support within the entire organisation.

The “Target Architecture” is a logical design, it defines the functional blocks and how they integrate.  During the execution of each “Track”, technology selection will be included.  It is also very important to consider current projects (in progress and planned), if they do not match the strategy, then they must be modified to match the Target Architecture or be terminated.

Here is an example of a 5 Year Strategy.

Getting Approval

It is very important to summarise the strategy into a series of slides that you can present in “Business Language” to your senior management (CIO, COO, CEO).  Transformation is expensive and the business value must be understood before you will get approval.  My suggestion for this presentation:

  • Slide 1 – Current issues that the Business is reporting.
  • Slide 2 – List the Business requirements that drive your strategy.
  • Slide 3 – How the 5 year strategy is going to fix these issues – provide a high level summary of the tracks and how it maps to the Target Architecture.
  • Slide 4 – Summarise the the business benefits (talk about Time To Implement / CAPEX / OPEX / ROI / Operational Savings / Faster Time to Market / Increased SLAs).

This step is critical to your success, without management support, you will be going nowhere.  Make sure you pressure test your presentation and delivery with your CIO before moving up the chain of command.  Ensure you have actual business figures from Finance and Procurement to justify your budget.  Remember, this is not a technical discussion, but a business engagement.

Approved! Now What?

You now have a 5 Year Strategy that has been approved by your senior management.  Now each track/project needs to be made a reality.  Depending upon the procurement process of your company it will typically look like this:

  1. Business Case
  2. Request For Quotation / Request for Proposal
  3. Vendor Selection
  4. Award Contract to Vendor
  5. Issue Purchase Order and Sign Contract
  6. Project Kick-Off
  7. Design Phase
  8. Design Sign-off
  9. Order Bill Of Materials
  10. Delivery of Software, Hardware and Licences
  11. Implementation Phase
  12. Test Phase
  13. Delivery of Supporting Documentation
  14. Project Sign-off and Handover to Operations

If you have 5 “Tracks” with 4 “Projects” each, then you will have to follow this process 20 times over 5 years, so it is very important to be organised and on-schedule.

Making It Happen

Rome was not built in a day, transformation takes time, money, effort and dedication.  You are in a marathon, not a sprint.  You need to pace yourself and your team.  I have found the following to be true to ensure success:

  • Full CIO, COO and CEO support of the Approved Strategy.
  • Authority to Hire and Fire – Any impediments to approved change need to be removed.  “If you are not with me, then you are against me.”
  • Approved Enterprise Architecture – make sure you know where you want to go.
  • Approved Budget – No money, no projects.
  • Technical Champions – The “A-Team” become the agents of change.
  • Training Program for current Staff – if people do not have the skills for the new technologies your are implementing, then they will not accept hand-over upon project/track completion.
  • Recruit new Staff with required skills – recruit local resources with the skills you need to complement your existing staff.
  • Use Professional Services & Resident Engineers – very important to use PS/RE services as “training wheels” for hand-over to Operations .
  • Expert Design services – do not spend money on bad design, insist on the best designers/architects in your region.
  • Phased Approach to Transformation – use logical milestones and realistic timelines to execute your strategy.

Review Cycle

The Strategy needs to be updated yearly, otherwise it will become outdated and lose value.  This is true for all documents in the Baseline, Target Architecture and 5 Year Strategy.

Other Resources

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Chief Enterprise Architect and Strategist, 4xVCDX#133, NPX#8, DECM-EA.