Three Ways IT Leaders can Get Ahead of the Annual Planning Process
It tends to creep up on you - the annual budget and strategic planning cycle - the output of which will be a budget, team & technology plan for 2024. How can you be proactive about the process, and even use it to demonstrate leadership?
In connecting with customers, colleagues and other expert sources - we’ve compiled three different approaches. Use them together, separately or get inspired a bit from each. Either way, hopefully it helps to make this year’s planning cycle much less hectic, and nets you out with a plan you feel great about.
1. Simplify the Strategy
How can you provide a higher level view of the vision: what’s your goal for IT (in the plainest terms possible)? Here are some examples:
- To spend on technology and digital at a rate slower than that of revenue growth
- To enable scale and simplify your environment
- To fully leverage your data such that you might build a more intelligent and automated enterprise
Defining the vision in terms as simple as these requires real focus. In most cases, organizations struggle to boil-down the vision to this level of simplicity. Success will come through clarity and a direct (as in, consistent strategic direction and even using the same words) connection to the CEO vision.
What major challenges are standing in the way of IT supporting the delivery of that vision?
What market forces need to be considered:
- Is device usage shifting (in a way that’s meaningful to IT)?
- Are expectations of channels or user interaction changing?
- Is the competitive landscape getting more complex
What internal challenges are material and need to be addressed:
- Internal team/ talent state
- Tech debt
- Security environment complexity
Then define the objectives & key projects that will allow you to deliver against this context. But be diligent about keeping it simple!
2. Take a fresh perspective
If you’re concerned - as many are - that the traditional planning process is not keeping up with the pace of change in IT & security, try this approach.
It’s a form of bottoms-up planning that starts with defining the vulnerabilities. Define these:
People vulnerability: Under-investing in people is a mistake that many organizations are paying the price for. Yes, technology & platforms are incredibly valuable, but finding the right balance between technology & people oversight is critical to success and growth. As we know, tools and tech are truly only as good as the team who’s implementing or managing them.
Technology vulnerability: A CFO & IT leadership session - that truly takes an objective view - on the risks and the priorities (without the sales pitches) is often the most helpful to separate the reality from the overly optimistic view of most products. As an objective data point, most IT solution areas now offer ‘vulnerability assessments’ or automated processes to truly uncover what’s working and not working about your current security position.
Process vulnerability: Both the IT team and non-IT staff need to know what procedures to follow in terms of every day cyber hygiene, and actions in the event of an urgent incident.
These will undoubtedly provide an incredible scale of risks. Try then a bottoms-up plan to address those risks, and we bet you’ll be persuasive.
3. Own the Timeline
Most organizations have a clear end of process deadline for planning inputs & requests: a board meeting, a planning offsite or other dependencies. In our experience, it’s typically less defined what inputs are needed to drive what level of planning
For IT specifically, define the dependencies:
2024 Corporate Vision: when do you need the vision and how will that impact your IT plan? It’s a critical connection that some folks overlook. Take this step to reiterate that IT plans are built directly in support of the broader vision of the organization
Market & Innovation Opportunities: how does stepping up innovation play in the vision? Where are there dependencies on this vision to technology and IT?
Demonstrate leadership by creating a plan that uses these inputs as your key dependency in building out 2024 plans. Establish this 1:1 relationship between the plan you’ll be building directly in support of how the overall objectives are defined.
Hope that’s helpful. Best of luck in planning. We’re always here if there’s anything at all we can help with!