Look’s Like It’s Strategy Time For IT Managers

by drjim on October 13, 2011

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If your IT team is going to take the castle, then you're going to need a strategy to do it…

If your IT team is going to take the castle, then you're going to need a strategy to do it…

As an IT manager, your time is spent keeping projects and teams on track. You wouldn’t think that something like strategy would be part of your job at this stage of your career. I mean, that strategy stuff is what the big boys in IT spend their days worrying about right? Hmm, if you don’t start thinking about how to both come up with and execute a strategy now, how are you going to develop these management skills later on? Let’s see if we can show you what you need to be doing with strategy right now…

What is Strategy?

Yeah, yeah – we all think that we know what strategy is, but do we really? I mean we’ve heard the term thrown around a great deal, but would any of us really know what it means if someone asked us?

Seems like this is the kind of thing that we should go to an expert for. One of the most successful consulting companies out there is the Boston Consulting Group. Their founder, Bruce Henderson defines strategy in the following way:

Strategy is the deliberate search for a plan of action that will develop a business’s competitive advantage and compound it.

You might be thinking “big deal, I’m just an IT manager”. However, strategy is part of your current manager job and it will become even more important later on in your career. That means that you’ve to be working to develop your strategy skills now so that they will be there later on when you really need them.

How Can An IT Manager Develop & Use A Strategy?

As a leader of an IT team, you’ve got a number of different ways that you can go about developing a strategy for your team to use. The godfather of strategy, Michael Porter, said that the purpose of creating a strategy was to allow you to find a way to position your team. This is where you’re going to have to make some decisions.

Specialize: Your strategy could be to have your IT team specialize in one specific area. You are ultimately competing with other IT teams within your company. This means that your strategy needs to lay out a plan for how your team is going to deliver projects faster, better, or at a lower cost than other IT teams will be able to.

Subset: This type of strategy has you saying that your IT team is going to work towards meeting the IT needs of a specific group of users within your company. This can be a department (finance), application users (email), or even a specific team (process improvement).

Location: This is one of the more powerful strategies. When you adopt this type of strategy, you determine that your team is going to focus on meeting the needs of a group of customers that you have access to – ones who are located in a specific geographical area. Generally this is easiest to do if the team that you are targeting is located in the same place that (the majority of) your IT team is.

The goal of whatever strategy you choose needs to be to deliver value to both the customers that you are serving as well as the company as a whole. By doing this, you’ll have a chance to not only develop your strategy skills, but you’ll also be able to execute on that strategy.

What Does All Of This Mean For You?

Developing and executing a strategy is something that IT managers need to be doing right now. This isn’t a skill that you can put off developing until later on in your career. This skill will take time to develop and so you need to start right now.

Once you understand that strategy is really a plan of action to achieve a business goal, you need to create a strategy for your team. You need to decide if your team’s strategy is going to be based on being good a specific set of IT skills, it they are going to focus on serving one functional part of the company, or if they are going to address the needs of a geographically based group.

By creating a strategy and then working with your team to execute it, you’ll start to discover just how hard this can be to do well. Every setback and change in strategy direction that you encounter will help you develop your IT strategy skills. When the time comes for you to create strategies that will guide the IT department, you’ll be ready!

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™

Question For You: Once created, do you think that you should share your strategy with the rest of your team?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Hmm, isn’t strategy something that the big boys are supposed to be taking care of? Most IT managers probably don’t think that they either have the skills needed to create and implement an effective strategy or that it’s simply not part of their job. Just to be clear about this: creating and implementing an effective IT strategy for your team is most definitely a part of your job. Now let’s figure out just exactly how to go about doing it…

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