​Is a multiyear approach to IT strategy obsolete?

"While long-term strategy may change in nature, it is more vital than ever to have an overall context to guide an organisation’s shorter-term plans."

Several clients have recently asked whether a traditional multiyear approach to IT strategy is still relevant in a world where the business landscape is rapidly evolving and the approach to new initiatives tends toward breaking them down into shorter-duration projects.

My view is that while long-term strategy may change in nature, it is more vital than ever to have an overall context to guide an organisation’s shorter-term plans.

The first point to make is that while agile methodologies and digital strategies may have led to shorter projects and faster cycle times, the lifecycle of IT platforms has not changed as dramatically.

For on-premise technology in both infrastructure and applications, enterprises are making multiyear investments and commitments to their chosen environment.

In the cloud, while in theory there is the flexibility to react quickly to changing demands and directions, the reality of cloud service contracts and the need for stability in business-critical environments means that enterprises are typically still making longer-term choices.

Having a multiyear IT strategy to provide a route map for platform development is important to avoid conflict from competing demands and to provide the optimal environment to support agile initiatives.

Secondly, I believe that enterprise architecture (as a complement to IT strategy) has an important role to play in maintaining and aligning the business context for both project and platform investments.

As a mix of shorter-term digital projects and longer-term “system of record” investments are undertaken, it’s vital that the interdependencies between them can be visualised and that there is a clear linkage to business objectives.

Thirdly, an IT strategy should also include the ongoing context of policy and governance that the organisation wishes to apply across its business technology environment.

This will include areas such as information management, security, risk management, and service delivery, and while they need to be expressed in a way that meets the needs of modern agile projects, they are an important link between differing modes of IT delivery.

If an IT strategy is structured and communicated effectively, then it will strike the balance between a long-term direction for exploiting business technology and providing a supportive environment for tactical projects and rapid innovation.

By Tim Jennings - Chief Research Officer, Ovum IT

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