Creating a Technology Strategy

Strategy

One of my colleagues reminded me that I promised to publish some hints and tips on how to create a Technology Strategy. So, I’m going to share some high-level information and the format which I use to gather my data which, ultimately leads to the formation of the strategy.

From what I gather, not many CIO’s or CTO’s write their own technology strategy. But I highly recommend doing it yourself because you will gain a really deep understanding of the business and how to develop your change/transformation agenda accordingly.

Now, I actually prefer to use Keynote or PowerPoint so that you can include images & graphs in order to make the strategy more interesting but equally one can use Pages or Word.

The Contents

The simplest place to start is with the Contents section. It’s not rocket science but don’t let this little list fool you. Completing these sections will take a lot of hard work and it’s quite a challenge to bring all the data together. You can expect to do lots of editing and re-writing but believe me, it’s worth it.

  1. Executive Summary
  2. Context & Background
  3. Business Strategic Objectives
  4. Current State Analysis Methodology
  5. Current State Analysis
  6. Future State (Technology Strategic Objectives)
  7. Horizon Planning
  8. Next Steps

So now I’ll step through each of these sections one by one. However, unfortunately I don’t have the time to share all the sub-sections and components right now. I’ll leave that for a future blog post on maturity analysis and assessment criteria.

Executive Summary

This should be as brief as possible and I usually write it after the main body of the work is complete. Others have told me that this is where they start but I think that narrows one focus and can lead to important areas being missed.

I always try to centre my approach around the Customer and hence I use this diagram:

screen-shot-2017-02-06-at-19-27-12

Then I outline the key focus areas in terms of Building Blocks like so:

screen-shot-2017-02-06-at-19-21-57

Of course, your blocks or key focus areas will be different but the summarisation can take the same format. For instance, for areas such as digital transformation, people & structure, regulatory & controls etc, I write one page for each one containing these topics:

  • Challenges
  • My Requirements (what is needed to address the challenges)
  • The Outcomes
  • Costs
  • Start & Completion Dates (High Level Targets like “H1” or “Q2” etc)
  • Executive Sponsorship and/or Support

In my experience, the outcomes are key because the business loves to hear what they are going to get. But I highly recommend adding an Executive or two as sponsors or supporters of each imitative. This generally spurs the CEO into creating joint goals between tech & the business and now you are not alone in the responsibility for delivery.

Context & Background

In this section, I focus on the external challenges facing the Business and Technology by detailing the Industry Landscape (e.g. potential disruptors, regulatory headwinds etc) and some analysis regarding Customer expectations. The Customer angle is key and the main reason why a business exists. It also shows your business colleagues that you understand the market, key drivers and areas of focus. Remember, start with the Customer and work backwards.

I also include here the opportunities and challenges coming from within, especially if your part of a global organisation which may create some constraints. It’s worth getting these out onto the table but try not to whine and complain. In fact, make sure that your text has a positive tone to it.

Business Strategic Objectives

The obvious key ingredient for a Tech strategy is the Business strategy but if one doesn’t exist or it’s outdated, you will need to rely on performing a wider set of one to one meetings with key business stakeholders. Then for each business outcome, there should be some form of technical enabler.

However, don’t be tempted to cut and paste the Business strategy. Where possible, summarise it and don’t be tempted to pad out your document (or PowerPoint) with someone else’s work! Also, prior to publication, review with your boss or the CEO your understanding/summarisation in order to make sure it is accurate. There’s nothing worse than presenting your pride & joy only to have it ripped to shreds within the first few minutes of discussion.

Current State Analysis Methodology

Here is where you detail the source of your analysis. The topics should include but are not limited to:

  • Interviews and 1 to 1’s with key stakeholders
  • Meetings with key suppliers
  • Meetings with Group Functions (for Global Companies)
  • Meetings with Senior Technical Leaders and Architects
  • Focus group playback from sessions held with a cross-section of all Technical staff
  • Key programs & projects – in flight or planned – with a current health assessment
  • Architecture documents
  • Technical comparison with your Competitors
  • Analysis of key technology trends in your sector (Cloud, PaaS, IoT, AI, DevOps etc)

The Current State Analysis

Now we are getting into the meat of the work and therefore by using the raw data from the previous section, you are now looking to provide an assessment across these key areas:

  • People (capacity and capability)
  • The current Technology operating model gap analysis (Lead & Manage, Plan, Build, Run)
  • Methodology maturity analysis (Flow, Agile, Waterfall)
  • Software development and quality processes
  • Services & API maturity analysis
  • Governance & demand management maturity
  • Project delivery processes
  • Operational processes
  • Architecture governance
  • Vendor Management
  • Technical debt assessment
  • Interview Feedback & Anecdotes
  • Current State Summary

Each one of these topics may include numerous pages of data but the list makes for a useful way of structuring the playback.

I always include interview feedback and the anecdotal quotes that one uncovers. These add some colour and emotion to what is after all quite an analytical part of the strategy.

The Current State summary can be centred around the technology “Culture” and focused on these topics:

  • Technology Leadership
  • Decision Making & Structure
  • People
  • Work Processes
  • Systems

Any more topics and you’ll lose the audience because I guarantee you that they won’t read the detailed section!

Future State (Technology Strategic Objectives)

This section details the future state and the roadmaps to get there. However, you may want to pause and consider these two options:

  1. You can present the current state analysis to the Technology Leadership and Business Executives in order to replay what you have discovered in the previous sections, then take their feedback on board in order to amend the analysis prior to creating the future state section of the technology strategy.
  2. Or one can go straight into writing this section – which is my preference as it shows your ability to have understood the challenges and what the solutions would be.

Regardless of which option you take, at some point you will need to detail all the actions required to close any gaps from the current state analysis. This will usually include requesting funding to address legacy systems, introducing new methods or gaining approval to hire new capability. I can’t give much more guidance than that because your challenges will be unique to your company or industry sector. But I’m sure that you can create themes, streams or use the building blocks from the executive summary.

It’s also worth reminding yourself of Where we currently are, Where we are going and Where we want to be.

However, describing the Future State usually includes these topics:

  • A new operating model
  • Capability and capacity uplift
  • Defined resourcing strategy
  • Enhanced delivery processes
  • Security and risk objectives
  • Global alignment vs independence
  • A target architecture
  • Vendor management strategy
  • Data strategy
  • Key Projects & Programs

Then underpinning these future state topics, you will need to call out any inter-dependencies and the investment profile. But don’t commit to any dates just yet.

Horizon Planning

The business will no doubt be pushing for dates and my guess is that your list of actions will be big. After all that’s why they hired you!

So, a technique which I recently learned (to give you time to plan more effectively) is to distill your list into three timeline sections:

screen-shot-2017-02-06-at-20-06-35

  • 0 to 3 months: Things that can be easily be completed quickly
  • 3 to 9 months: The building blocks leading to the key game changers
  • 9 to infinity: The really challenging items that will deliver your future state (which you should limit to no more than 5 things)

This technique is used by many consultancies and it makes playback of your strategy easier to consume.

Next Steps

In the last section, I always call out where I need the support from the business to execute the technology strategy. But also, even though you have the horizon plan, it’s best to include a plan outlining the activities to deliver the horizons. Many CEO’s have told me that this is critical to them, as it forms their update to the board.

Also, if you’re brave enough, then this is where you say “Back me or sack me”!

 

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