Creating an Effective Information Strategy (Part 2 of 2)
Information strategy development is often confused with tactical planning. This is the second half of a two-part series that will help you develop an effective information strategy.
- By Troy Hiltbrand
- October 25, 2017
In Part 1, we discussed how to develop a vision statement and define the organizational impacts associated with the execution of your information strategy. This is a great basis for an effective information strategy but does not provide organizational stakeholders with the detail about what needs to be done at a tactical level to achieve these intended outcomes.
Defining projects and the details of cost and timing also play a role in developing your information strategy.
Building off of your vision statement, which forms a basic understanding of what you are trying to accomplish and the anticipated impact you will have on the business, the next step is to identify which projects you will need to execute to achieve success.
First, look at what is currently being worked on and what is currently part of the backlog. By evaluating these projects and assessing their fit within your newly defined vision statement, you will get a sense of what your organization is already doing to assist the business with achieving its target state.
Many current requests will be necessary for maintenance and operations -- i.e., keeping the business running -- and are important for that reason, but are not necessarily part of your information strategy. Others will have direct strategic fit and will show that the work being performed is advancing the organization's targets. Evaluating the projects that are either in process or in the queue to be worked on will provide you with a short-term view of your information strategy, but that is only a start.
Next, evaluate technologies and concepts that are on the horizon that could have a direct strategic impact on your organization. Industry analysts such as Forrester, Gartner, and McKinsey have models to track digital advancements relating directly to the utilization of information across multiple industries and verticals. Some of these models try to predict multiple years into the future and determine the anticipated impact these enhancements will have on businesses.
Evaluating these predictions can help you identify future projects that need to be in your strategic portfolio, regardless of whether the technology is completely mature today or not. This becomes a longer-term part of your information strategy planning. These projects will need further investigation to understand their potential impact on helping your organization to achieve its information goals.
In addition, TDWI has a large repository of blog posts, guides, white papers, and journals that specifically target technologies associated with the management and utilization of information. It is helpful to look at what others are doing both inside and outside of your vertical to understand what has the potential to drive your strategy forward. It is also important to assess what capabilities might be implemented by your competition that could have an impact on your ability to maintain your market share and stay competitive.
The goal of identifying projects is not to put together detailed project plans for these projects, but to identify at a high level how these projects fit together -- helping you to leverage your information assets and achieve your organizational targets. These projects become the stepping stones to achieve your vision statement and should be directly tied back to the target goal and intended business impacts.
Timing and Costs
The next step is to define the timing of your strategy. Most strategies are designed to be implemented over the long term and have a significant impact on the organization. If all the projects you have identified for your portfolio are short-term projects, you are probably missing great opportunities to have a long-term positive impact on the business.
When laying out your strategic plan, you will be looking at multiple time periods, each with a different level of impact to the organization.
You will have short-term projects, generally taking six months to a year. These will lay the foundation for longer-term projects and might include some projects that will start to redirect current efforts in a new direction. These often include short-term wins that will validate the strategy to your business partners and begin to show the business impacts promised in the information strategy.
You will have medium-term projects, generally taking one to three years, where you will be building off the base established by the short-term projects. These projects start having a greater impact on your organizational goals.
Finally, you have long-term projects (generally lasting three or more years) where you start to see transformational concepts -- just in their infancy today -- start to take hold and become significant competitive advantages for your organization. This is where the ultimate vision of your information strategy pushes the organization forward to its desired state.
Having these multiple views on timing allows your organization to get quick wins while keeping a long-term perspective on where your company is headed. Without this long-term perspective, your information management organization may become mired in a continuous cycle of short-term projects that only keep your organization one step ahead of the latest fire.
To be effective, your information strategy needs to include a sense of what the cost will be to implement. This does not require a detailed, resource-by-resource estimate of each activity that will go into the execution of the projects that comprise your strategy, but it does need to provide enough context that your strategy and its impacts can be weighed against other strategies and allow your organization to make an overall strategic value determination.
Pulling It All Together
Once you understand the vision of where you are headed, the potential impact of execution, the potential projects, and the timing and costs associated with your strategy, you need to gain organizational support. You need to present your information strategy to secure buy-in and the resources necessary to bring it to fruition. The format of your presentation will vary with your audience.
For some organizations, a document or white paper laying out the components of the strategy is appropriate. For others, the information strategy will need to be distilled into a single page visualization that quickly summarizes the key components of the strategy, but can be clearly understood. One goal in recording the strategy is to create a clear and consistent story so you have a common vision and a commitment to the resource allocation.
The development of your information strategy that can be clearly communicated is a delicate balance between ensuring that you are setting the right vision and keeping it as simple as possible so it can be understood by business stakeholders. As you start to define your information strategy, your content will grow and you will require multiple passes of pruning and reorganizing the content to get it to the right level for your audience. This refinement process can be one of the most challenging aspects of developing an information strategy.
Now that you have a clear understanding of what your information strategy and its major components are, you can get started. This process will lead to a strong information strategy that will define your tactical and operational plans for years to come.
Editor's note: Read Part 1 of this two-part series here.
Troy Hiltbrand is the chief information officer at Amare Global where he is responsible for its enterprise systems, data architecture, and IT operations. You can reach the author via email.