If you ask any CIO to participate in creating a strategic plan for his or her company, you’ll probably see their eyes light up. This is what they live for – getting a seat at the big table to help chart the course of the company. We all believe that we deserve this position because of the importance of information technology. This is all great, but unfortunately most of us have no idea what to do with a strategic plan or what we need to account for when it’s being created. How about if we go about fixing this problem?
It’s All About Hard Trends
When the person with the CIO Job is working on a strategic plan, they need to be aware of the various trends that they need to take into consideration. Some of the most important ones are “hard trends”. Hard trends are things that are going to happen in the future no matter if you want them to or not – they are out of your control.
Hmm, ok – so what are the drivers of these hard trends? Well, it turns out that there are three main forces that will influence hard trends: government regulations, technology, and changes in demographics. Each one of these forces are out of your control but they will have a dramatic impact on your company and how it operates in the future.
As the CIO, you need to spend your time considering these hard trends and relate them to the strategic plan that your company is trying to create. Give some thought to what government regulations are being considered right now and what may come up in the future. Technology is always a moving target, but it tends to start with something small that we can all see. Finally, everyone is getting older all the time. How will this change the customers that your company is currently pursuing?
Oh, And Soft Trends Too
Given that hard trends are something that you need to account for when you are creating your company’s strategic plan, but you can’t change them, what are “soft trends”? Soft trends are once again things that may happen in the future. However, the difference between hard trends and soft trends is that you actually can do something about soft trends – these trends can be changed.
Soft trends are related to hard trends. An example of this would be cell phones. More and more people are upgrading from simple cell phones to so-called smart phones. This is a hard trend and there is nothing that you can do about it. Once they upgrade, they will turn to their phones to amuse themselves when they are bored or have free time. They will want to have games to play. This is a soft trend. Once you’ve identified a soft trend, your company can take advantage of it.
One of the most important things that you need to keep in mind as the CIO is that you don’t want to make the mistake of treating soft trends as though they were hard trends. Remember that soft trends don’t necessarily have to happen. If you make assumptions in your strategic plan that a soft trend is going to keep on growing well into the future, you may turn out to be wrong because it was a soft trend – things can happen to change it.
What All Of This Means For You
Every company needs to have a strategic plan and the CIO can play an important role in getting it created. The problem is that most CIOs don’t know how to create a strategic plan. Additionally, once it’s been created, they don’t know what to do with it.
What CIOs need to understand is that a company’s strategic plan is not something that lives on a shelf. Instead, it needs to be a part of every employee’s everyday tasks and planning. Additionally, CIOs need to plan for hard trends that will happen in the future no matter what and soft trends that may or may not happen.
No matter how well your company may be doing today, tomorrow is another story. If the company is going to be successful in the future, they are going to have to have a strategic plan to follow. What this means for you as the person in the CIO position is that you need to lend a helping hand. Make sure that both hard and soft trends are accounted for and you’ll have earned your spot at the company’s planning table.
– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Department Leadership Skills™
Question For You: How much time do you think that a CIO should spend on strategic planning?
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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time
I don’t know about you, but whenever I see something that looks complicated, I am impressed. I mean, somebody took the time to make that and so based on the importance of information technology it must do something complicated very well. Well, it turns out that I’m wrong. Especially within our IT departments, the one thing that we don’t need any more of is complexity. It’s killing our productivity and eating up our budgets. What is a CIO to do?