Yes, that’s right — I’m suggesting CIOs should stop working on IT strategy. The days of developing a technology strategy that aligns to business strategy need to be behind us. Today’s CIOs must focus on business strategy.

Lemonade StandLet’s face it: Does sound business strategy even exist today without technology? Most CEOs would likely agree that, unless you are running a lemonade stand, any successful business strategy must have solid technology at its core. The challenge for today’s CEOs is that, while planning business strategy in isolation from technology is sub-optimal, it remains the most common way business leaders develop strategy. And while there have been many great books about strategy, the specific challenges facing the CIO are largely absent.

That’s why Forrester has researched the ways in which companies develop technology strategy and also why we have developed the Business Technology Strategic Planning (BTSP) Framework. Our new BTSP framework distills Forrester’s current research into an easy-to-follow guide that has at its heart the understanding that there should be no IT strategy, just business strategy with a technology component, or BT strategy.

Now you might think we’re crazy — after all, many firms, including Forrester, earn substantial revenue from advising CIOs on IT strategy. But as I see it, IT strategic plans belong in a museum.

In place of an IT strategy, every firm bigger than a lemonade stand must have a living, dynamic business technology strategy. It will be this strategy that drives future results of the organization and also that defines the future technology road map.

Of course the technology department (whether you call it BT or IT or something else) also needs to have an operating plan — the CIO’s plan for how to execute the BT strategic plan. The operating plan must include the continuous assessment of the technology capabilities, people, and funds required to execute the BT strategy. This also forms part of the BTSP framework.

By collaborating across the business to develop BT strategy and not IT strategy, CIOs move beyond alignment and position the technology team at the heart of effective business strategy. Forrester’s BTSP framework is helping CIOs rethink strategic planning.

As I write this, I’m working on a mini workshop on BTSP for attendees at the upcoming CIO Forums in Las Vegas and Paris, where we’ll go deeper into how BTSP applies business capability maps to drive business strategy discussion. I hope to see you in Vegas in May or Paris in June!

Who knows, maybe soon even lemonade stand entrepreneurs could benefit from BT strategy.

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