How to Build a Winning IS Strategy

In the last post, The Biggest Software Mistake Your Company is Probably Making, we covered the basics of what an information systems (IS) strategy is and the importance of having one in place. This week, we’ll dive deeper into what makes a good IS strategy and how to build one for your company.

What makes an IS Strategy a “good” one?

First and foremost, it needs to be created by someone with personal understanding and experience with software and data systems. It’s not enough to have an IT leader with an understanding of hardware, networking, storage, and security to set and implement your IS strategy. Hint/workaround: If you don’t have a CIO on staff with deep software knowledge, your next best bet is to have a high-ranking staff member with required knowledge and experience take the lead.

Next, a winning strategy provides a clear definition of what the company needs to run the organization, and what software is and is not appropriate to acquire and implement. This improves the decisions that are made, preventing potentially poor IS decisions that end the end work against the company’s direction and growth, such as buying software that is too expensive or that doesn’t align with new products and services the company is providing, not staffing appropriately to support the in-house technologies.

Finally, a good IS strategy makes decisions easier for a company leader when deciding what IS actions to take to help the business grow. And it prevents the company from wasting large amounts of money and time with the wrong software or data initiatives.

How to Devise Your IS Strategy

The first question your company should ask itself is how intentional you will be about the growth of their company. Intentional growth implies creating a vision and plan for the next 5-, 10-, or 20 years. If IS decisions are made without consideration for the business plans, the results from the decisions can hold back the business, cause major disruption, and cause major losses in the business.

Once you have that vision, look for ways that IS tools and concepts can enable the success of the overall corporate strategy. You don’t need to make specific decisions on technology choices right away. Just record any ideas and organize them into an IS strategy document.

Questions to ask before you begin (query both executives and mid-level managers)

  • Does an overall corporate strategy exist? (If not, this should be created first.)
  • Does the company have a CIO (or person that is wearing that hat)?
  • Does the CIO have understanding and experience of software and data systems?
  • Do other management and leadership team members involved in making IS-related decisions understand the need for an IS strategy and how it will impact them?
  • Have IS-related decisions been made recently which have turned out to be poor decisions? (i.e., much more expensive than planned, projects failed miserably, projects made the company worse-off rather than better-off)

Quick Reference: Creating an IS Systems Strategy

  1. Establish your business goals and objectives in the form of a business plan
  2. Review current technologies in place and current IT/IS strategies
  3. Define how the business goals can better be facilitated with certain software
  4. Establish high level schedule for implementing new systems, aligning with business plan
  5. Organize the IT/IS strategy in a document
  6. Assign a senior leader to be responsible for executing the plan