Essential CIO tools: The strategy presentation

Last week we talked about what the vision presentation should look like and how it can be used to position yourself for greater influence at the executive level. Today we’re going to talk about the IT strategy presentation, which is the presentation you’ll probably use most often.

IT strategy presentations are especially difficult because many IT leaders don’t really have a coherent IT strategy, which makes having a presentation on IT strategy very tough. Not only that, but I’ve discovered that what most IT leaders call an IT strategy is little more than a collection of projects and a budget. Although that’s a critical operational piece of your strategy, it’s not the most important part. It’s not what you’ll use to increase your influence and to attain your personal as well as your group’s objectives.

A compelling IT strategy should demonstrate your hold on everything that’s going on in IT. And it must address a broader set of issues and questions than, “What’s the list of projects and what’s the budget that we have?”

From my experience, highly influential IT leaders have a strategy presentation or, at the very least, strategies that can be turned into presentations that address the following three critical issues:

  • their mandates and scope of services
  • their organizations and service delivery models
  • their IT investment portfolios

Let me explain why addressing these issues is so important.

Mandate and Scope of Services

As an IT leader, being able to provide a clear sense of the mandate of your IT group and other groups that provide IT services is essential to articulating your IT strategy. Your strategy must, by definition, answer the questions that everyone has, “What do you do for me? When do I come to you? And how do you fit in with the other IT service providers that work for our company?”

Communicating your mandate and your scope or services is more essential today than ever before. Why? Because IT groups are being fragmented; central IT often overlaps with departmental or specialized IT groups; more of IT is being outsourced; and shadow IT groups are cropping up within user communities.

The IT Organization and Service Delivery Model

Unfortunately, most IT leaders make the mistake of thinking that the way to align with the business is to ensure that their specific projects support very specific business goals. That’s a good thing; and I’m all for doing that. But that’s not the fundamental alignment you should look for with IT. That’s not the kind of alignment that elevates you from a service provider to a member of the executive team.

The more important alignment is around the basic operating model of the company and how it connects to the operating model of IT. For example, say your company is highly diversified and highly siloed by functions, by profit areas, or by product lines. Trying to service or work with the business using a highly centralized IT service delivery model will most likely fail if it extends beyond the most core infrastructure services.

Influential IT leaders are careful to align their organizations and service delivery models to the operating model and philosophy of their companies. When asked the question “How do I get the services I need?” or “How are our IT services aligned to our business?” influential IT leaders provide answers that instantly make sense to their business colleagues because they aren’t new and unique. Rather, they are a mirror image of the corporation itself.

The IT Investment Portfolio

The third critical issue your strategy presentation should address is your IT investment portfolio. Instead of talking about projects and budgets per se, the investment portfolio should address how information technology is strategically being invested across the company. That’s because, on their own, managers can’t see the number of priorities IT has to juggle to determine the right budget levels, the right investments, and the right priorities.

It’s important to provide a 50,000-foot view into the IT investment portfolio that explains what sits in infrastructure, what sits in shared services, what sits in departmental functions, and what tradeoffs are being made across the company.

Doing that helps all the executives understand what compromises they need to make in terms of their consumption of IT services, whether its slower response times or using outsourced service providers for help desk support or upgrading computers faster. This complete view of the IT investment portfolio and the business priorities to which the investments are attached lend tremendous credibility to the IT leader who can discuss it at that level as opposed to just at the project level.

For too many IT leaders, the IT strategy is about wordsmithing a mission or vision statement alongside a long list of projects. Go back and take a careful look at each of the topics presented above. I think you will see that they not only elevate the typical pedestrian headings found in most IT strategies, but they shift the focus of the IT strategy to the key questions being asked by your business colleagues. Learning to present your IT strategy from a business perspective is critical to building your influence within your organization.

Stay tuned for my next post, which covers the business presentation.

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