IT STRATEGIC PLANNING
“You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you are going, because you might not get there.”
BACKGROUND Henry Mintzberg, former president of the Strategic Management Society, points out that “strategy can not be planned because planning is about analysis and strategy is about synthesis.” 1 Failure to recognize this basic distinction accounts for the frequent failure of such exercises, as does an excessive focus on technical detail, lack of suitable leadership, and perhaps most important, failure to align technology to institutional mission and priorities. Strategic planning involves a structure or framework, a set of procedures (both formal ...view middle of the document...
Strategic planning found its origins and its fullest expression in the top-down, bureaucratic, centralized, and standardized organizations that readily lend themselves to control. This “machine” model hardly applies to what March and Olsen called the “organized anarchies” of academe. 3 In the words of the ECAR alignment study: “we might describe colleges and universities as networks of cottage industries rather than enterprises. Aligning priorities in an enterprise is challenging. Aligning priorities within a network of cottage
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Draft: Strategic Planning – 11/17/06
industries is downright hard.” 4 The IT culture and the academic culture differ in almost every important respect: the former has an institutional focus, the latter a disciplinary focus; one emphasizes speed, change, and short life cycles, the other values tradition and long-term commitments to research and theory. Rather than control, then, the advantages of formal planning in the university seem to revolve around communication, education, prioritization, consensus building, and most important, legitimizing whatever decisions do get made. Cassidy has identified at least six reasons why strategic planning makes sense for CIOs. 5 The first three address the administrative environment and help get IT off the “cost page” and on to the “asset and investment page.” The last three address the internal responsibilities of the IT organization itself. 1. It promotes effective management of an expensive and critical asset of the institution. 2. It improves communication between the fiscal and IT units of the university. 3. It helps to align or even link the direction of IT to the business functions of the institution. 4. It improves the flow of internal information and processes within the IT division. 5. It helps to efficiently and effectively allocate IT resources across the campus. 6. It tends to reduce the time and expense of IT life cycles, particularly in terms of vendor review, selection, approval, and implementation. The 2004 Educause study of IT alignment in higher education identified a total of 13 reasons for developing IT strategic plans, but three were dominant: align technology with institutional priorities (76 percent of respondents); secure financial and other resources (53 percent); and enhance IT service levels (45 percent). In general, these motivations were strongly correlated with perceived outcomes. The same study found that most publicly available plans (i.e., those on the Web) did not conform to standard planning methods and frameworks in the professional literature; tended to be inward-looking and rarely benefited from environmental scanning; were more often tactical than strategic; rarely related IT planning to teaching and learning; focused more on institutional vision and mission than on budgets; and had inadequate communications and assessment strategies. Apparently, the bar is not very high from a national perspective. Each year, Educause...