by Laura Koetzle

Laura-KoetzleLast week, Forrester’s CIO Group held its North American Fall Member Meeting in Chicago. In addition to enjoying some Chicago-style deep dish pizza and dinner at the Art Institute of Chicago, approximately 70 members gathered from across the globe to discuss top-of-mind issues. Sessions included presentations from Forrester analysts, case studies presented by members, and a workshop on IT strategic planning.

The IT strategic planning workshop was facilitated by CIO Group Advisor Natan Abraham and Research Director Sharyn Leaver, but the members did most of the talking. During the workshop, each participant was asked to identify 5 challenges he/she faces in the IT strategic planning process. A small sampling would include:

  • Conflicting objectives between business leaders
  • Having the time to step back from the day to day to think long term
  • Determining the true value of a project
  • Management changes and organizational alignment
  • Changing priorities from the business leaders
  • Addressing all business units fairly
  • Transformational vs. incremental project scope
  • Demand exceeding supply
  • What criteria to use for prioritization…ROI, cost, risk, etc.
  • Lack of clear business strategy
  • Unrealistic benefit statements


Strategies on how to counteract the challenges were then discussed. For example, one member suggested that dealing with a business strategy that changes frequently could be an opportunity to engage with the business. A suggestion was made to look at factors such as value, criticality, and complexity brought on by the business strategy change.


When it came to involving the right people, it was suggested that an executive committee made up of mostly senior leaders, including the CIO, should be formed to provide oversight, prioritization, and direction for enterprise-wide IT projects and services. The highest level personnel who have an interest in the projects should be involved. Also, those that are paying get to vote on the prioritization.


Managing the balancing act between competing priorities was a topic of heated discussion. There was unanimous agreement that IT should be the facilitator of prioritization, not the judge. Different ways to compare competing projects included risk mitigation, alignment to overall corporate strategy, value certainty (the likelihood of a desired outcome), and looking at urgency vs. business avoidance.


Finally, the area of looking at hard-to-justify projects, such as infrastructure, was explored. It was suggested that one follow the insurance model…the need to quantify, assess, and evaluate risk looking to see where risk and cost converge; and what risk is the business is willing to accept. Phasing in infrastructure projects was seen as valuable. Also, these types of projects should be tied in with the overall strategic vision (e.g. if an organization wants to be global, a unified communication infrastructure would be valuable in reaching that goal). The bundling of these types of projects to solve multiple business needs at the same time was suggested.


As the workshop came to a close, the comment of one of the members seemed to sum up the discussion very well…a variety of interesting and helpful tips & tricks were shared, but he was particularly pleased to know he wasn’t alone…that others were facing similar difficulties with creating and managing an IT strategic plan. If you have strategies that have been successful in the IT strategic planning process, please join in the conversation.