Introduction to IT plans
IT plays a key role in every organization. You provide all the tools and systems that help the organization streamline its work — communication and productivity tools, data processing and storage, technical support, and more. Your work impacts how your organization is able to deliver products and services to customers. And you introduce new technology and innovations to stay ahead of competitors. The bottom line? Organizations cannot function without IT.
With the scope of the IT department's work spread across technologies, business areas, and people, it is critical to develop a strategic plan. An IT plan outlines how you will support the key business goals set by your company. It also describes the strategic direction of the team — the "why" behind your upcoming initiatives and investments — so you can better plan the "what" and the "when."
Company strategy is typically set annually — so IT strategy and planning follows suit. Some IT teams build out plans in two- and three-year increments as well. The timelines largely depend on your goals, initiatives, internal resources, and leadership team. The chief technology officer (CTO) or the VP of technology are usually in charge of the overall plan.
Technology changes quickly — while the details of your plan may change, the high-level strategy should remain relatively steady. Set aside time at least twice yearly to revisit your IT plan.
What is included in an IT plan?
Your IT plan defines how the business will operate and keep up with shifts in technology and the market. A strategic plan drives enterprise transformation — helping you identify the technology, solutions, and data to deliver a better customer experience.
Your plan should cover these areas:
Vision and strategy: Your vision captures the essence of what you want to achieve as an IT team. Your strategy is the direction you'll take to get there. Much like a product strategy, an IT strategy should include details about your internal and external customers, what they need, and how you plan to deliver technology and services to them.
Goals: Many IT departments rush ahead to methodologies and problem-solving before defining clear goals. IT goals should be specific, measurable, and time-bound. Each should deliver against the broader goals that have been defined at the company level. For example, if the business is focused on improving time to market, an IT goal could be to increase new feature releases by 30% in a given quarter.
Initiatives: These are the high-level efforts that you need to complete in order to meet the goals. In short, initiatives bridge goals and tactical plans. As an example, adopting cloud-first solutions could be an initiative that helps the team reduce costs.
Budget: Beyond managing recurring expenses and "just keeping the lights on," you need to account for upcoming technology investments.
Workflows: Your plan should also include processes and workflows that help the IT team collaborate across projects. Include the team members involved, roles and responsibilities, and any approval gates along the way. Documentation is key to keep everyone in sync.
How can you approach an IT plan?
Your organization's structure, industry, and IT methodologies will impact how you approach planning. Some IT teams take a waterfall approach to planning — they define the plans upfront, gather requirements, and do the work sequentially. Others take a more agile approach to planning. These teams define the high-level goals, then allow for ongoing adjustments and iterations to the plan. Either approach has its place as long it enables you to meet your customers' needs.
Consider the following questions to help guide the planning process:
Who are the customers that we serve and what do they want to achieve?
What are we delivering to our customers?
How do our customers currently feel about our technologies and services?
What are our goals for software development and delivery?
Where do bottlenecks exist in current processes?
How long do deployments currently take?
What do we have automated now and what will we automate in the future?
What is our biggest opportunity for innovation?
How thorough is our vulnerability management program?
What kinds of internal and external factors will impact our plan?
How will we monitor and review the plan?
The articles in this section of the IT guide will provide more details about IT planning. Having a strong strategic foundation will help you build an IT roadmap — giving your team a clear path forward.