Three building blocks for your business technology strategy

Forrester's BT Strategic Planning playbook helps CIOs to plan and build a BT strategy, including a BT technology road map and ways to successfully act on that road map.

Forrester’s iterative BT strategy process begins with business goals followed by ways to identify the business and technology strategies required to achieve those goals and the creation of a technology road map of investment initiatives to help realize those strategies.

But many CIOs stop there, failing to create a detailed view of what the BT organization needs to do in order to act on those strategies, to be ready to manage, deliver, and operate the technology road map.

Without this analysis, many IT organizations experience out-of-control projects, unexpected costs, and late or even failed initiatives.

While there is no magic formula for anticipating the BT organization's readiness to meet its commitments expressed in a BT technology road map, there are three building blocks that every CIO should analyze as part of the BT strategy process.

The mix and maturity of the BT organization's leadership capabilities, the BT technical services required to enable and support the road map, and the resources necessary for these capabilities and services.

Building block 1: Assess the mix and maturity of BT’s leadership capabilities
CIOs should begin be being sure that their organization has the capabilities required to deliver the road map, and business capability maps provide a framework for focusing on the BT organization’s ability to plan, implement, and manage the elements of a BT technology road map.

Forrester defines a business capability as the organization's capacity to successfully perform a unique business activity to achieve a specific outcome.

Business capabilities represent a large-grained view of what an organization must do to execute its mission or to support its position in the marketplace.

A collection of capabilities becomes a capability map when two conditions occur.

First, the collection brings together all of the capabilities essential to an organization's operating model and value chain.

And second, when the listing for each capability includes the processes, functions, organizations, and information that enable the realization of the capability's desired outcomes.

Capability maps themselves aren't complicated and simple capability maps are the most effective.

Most BT organizations using capability maps for some aspect of strategy and governance state that a top-level map of between 20 and 40 capabilities provides the granularity they need.

Also, BT capability maps don't vary greatly from one firm to the next within the same industry sector.

Therefore, the quickest way to build a capability map is to start with a straw man framework and then iteratively refine and focus the capability map to match an individual BT organization.

With the BT organization’s capability map in place, it should be reviewed to assure its relevance for the BT strategic technology road map.

Related:

CIOs should rate the maturity of their organizations’ capabilities, especially for managing the specific challenges of the technology road map. Identify any updates required, including adding new capabilities or eliminating ones no longer needed.

Building block 2: Identify BT technical services updates required by the road map
The next step is to be certain that the BT organization's foundation components: hardware, software, and people services, support the BT technology road map.

The technology road map should have already translated gaps in business capabilities into specific technology projects and programs.

The objective of this assessment is to take that analysis one step deeper, to look at the technology services that will be employed by the technology road map initiatives, such as email, mobile analytics, and networks.

To execute this analysis, CIOs must first update the portfolio of their company’s business services based on the corporation’s business capability maps (not the BT organization’s capability map this time).

The business services portfolio is the ITIL 3.0 language for the database of BT foundation components that link to the BT organization's business services, to the business capabilities used in Forrester's strategic planning framework.

The business capability maps associate roles, processes, technologies, and information with the business capabilities. And these, in turn, are supported by the technology services, applications, midtier software, and infrastructure — the BT foundation components.

Through this assessment, identify any weaknesses or gaps in the BT organization’s services — and identify the resources required to update or deliver the gap-filling services.

Building block 3: Identify the resources necessary for these capabilities and services
While high-level preliminary estimates will have been done for the resources required to directly execute the road map development, the more detailed examination of BT leadership capabilities and BT technical services described above will solidify both the estimate of specific resources required and when they are required, based on the sequence of the road map's projects.

This detailed plan will, in turn, affect the BT organization's capital and expense budgets.

The process of identifying these resources should engage the project portfolio management (PPM) process, planning for resources that support the BT technology road map development as well as the ongoing adjustments as the road map is implemented.

This requirement review should have minimum impact on these early estimates.

Instead, it should look at the resources required to enable the broader ecosystem of development and infrastructure and operations investments, including the BT organization's leadership capabilities and updating or adding BT technical services.

This resource analysis and the PPM process itself should translate architectural fit for BT technology road map initiatives into ongoing support costs, reviewing interdependence across the BT ecosystem, taking into account all types of resources (not just technical ones), and continuously adjusting to reflect the ongoing changes to the BT technology road map.

Bobby Cameron is vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research where contributes to the Forrester blog for CIOs

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