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Reverse organizations' approach to IT planning to comply with business strategy

Digital transformation continues to be a priority for company executives. They know that artificial intelligence, blockchain, IoT, and big data are driving their ability to improve customer experience, stay ahead of the competition and generate business growth.

However, with IT teams managing day-to-day technology, it is difficult for IT to stay abreast of the strategic discussions occurring at the business level. It is also difficult to proactively plan for associated IT upgrades, modifications, or new systems. 

This disconnect can result in a lagging approach to IT planning especially as business decisions are made in fast-moving agile environments.

Improve IT strategic planning with enterprise architecture 

To remedy this, companies need a holistic approach that connects business and technology. Enterprise architecture (EA) helps companies improve their IT strategic planning by helping companies precisely see and understand how IT systems support business objectives. 

An IT Roadmap that is built on foundational enterprise architecture and business outcomes-oriented assesses the impact of change on the existing IT landscape and therefore makes quick adjustments.

What are the four main steps to implement an agile IT strategic plan?

There are four steps to successfully implement an agile IT Strategic Planning using enterprise architecture:

1.         Plan business capabilities

IT needs to capture the company’s vision, objectives, strategy, and tactics, and then plan the business capabilities that support these transformation objectives.

Business capabilities are an important concept that allows enterprise architects to relate business objectives to IT resources, as well as IT projects. Business capabilities indeed represent the building blocks of an organization and what it can do. All business capabilities are put together in a business capability map describing all the capabilities of an organization. Each capability is supported by IT resources and projects, and each capability supports the objectives defined by the business.

By planning these capabilities, it is possible to create an enterprise roadmap that aligns transformation initiatives with business objectives.

To efficiently perform this step, it is recommended that enterprise architects engage with the business teams to map current business capabilities and understand how they may evolve.

2.         Define the new IT architecture that supports business objectives

As a starting point, map the current IT environment. Then, develop the new IT architecture based on the planned business capabilities. Business capability maps will help show what IT resources are required to support business operations as the company evolves to meet new challenges.

Determine the target IT architecture, including applications and technology components. Then, perform a gap analysis to identify individual pieces or segments of the IT environment that can be redesigned, and identify the corresponding IT projects.

As a best practice, business architects, system architects, and solution architects should work collaboratively to design the future architecture. This helps to ensure a more complete approach.

3.         Manage a portfolio of transformation projects

To support an evolving IT architecture, the IT projects identified in the previous step need to be initiated. A business case that explains why the project should be done should be included. Also, how it supports business objectives, the related costs, as well as a timeline and possible risks. Then, projects can be assessed and prioritized based on their alignment to the business objectives and the criteria as defined above.

An EA tool that has a single repository allows you to easily perform impact analysis onto the architecture and understand the changes. To better prioritized the best mix of projects, perform a what-if scenario analysis by combining multiple projects.

4.         Build an IT roadmap, monitor progress, and continuously adjust

Once projects have been prioritized, they can be put into a timetable, forming the IT roadmap. With a clear IT roadmap, IT leaders have a comprehensive view of future IT projects and can plan resources and budget accordingly. This will help tighten the link between strategy and project execution while providing support for quickly evolving business strategies.

As projects are executed, monitor progress and KPIs, track business changes, and assess their impact. Then, regularly adjust the roadmap and share it with the teams.

As a best practice, try to balance agile and governance by constantly adjusting the roadmap, but also planning for the long term. It is recommended though, to follow the business cadence: instead of planning on a yearly basis, make IT strategic plans more frequent. In agile environments, quarterly-based plans make the most sense.

IT leaders can create an agile IT strategic plan with the help of enterprise architecture. IT leaders can then make well-informed decisions on future investments. Thanks to a business-aligned IT roadmap, they can be frequently updated.

Enterprise architecture tightens IT systems to the business strategy and quickly assess the impact of a business change on the IT landscape. Relevant IT projects are identified by performing a gap analysis between the current and the future IT landscape linked to business objectives. 


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