What is Strategic Planning?

The word "strategy" was derived from Stratēgos - an ancient Greek word referring to a 'military commander'. For many centuries the word was primarily used in a military context. A strategy is a longer-term plan, aimed at achieving a specific objective. The implementation of that strategy will involve tactics (detailed plans), and resources (people, materials, tools and weapons). It takes into account all of the environmental factors, and aims to deliver the most effective and successful outcome, given all the circumstances.

In a military context, the great strategist Sun Tzu (pictured left) would take many factors into account including the weather, supply lines, health of the men, availability of weapons, escape routes, placement, and so on.  Even in ancient times, few battles were won by marching troops to the enemy's front line and engaging them head-on. Some situations called for siege, some for feints and others for pincer movements, depending on what the circumstances dictated.

How Strategic Planning Applies to ICT

If the key role of Information Communication and Technology (ICT) is to provide the host organisation with the tools to achieve its business objectives, there is little need for a separate strategic plan for ICT.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Just as military battles may employ strategic maneuvers to achieve their objectives, so too ICT has to examine all the available options, so that it is possible to select the most effective way of achieving the desired result.  Should outsourcing be considered?  Are there appropriate new technologies available? What are other similar organisations doing?  What level of funding is available?  How urgently is change needed? There are many such questions to be considered before embarking on a campaign. Strategic planning is about choosing the best combination, to achieve the required objective, in light of the current circumstances.

What Does A Strategic Plan Look Like?

Strategic Plan documents range from a single page to several hundred pages. So what should be included, and how big should it be?

Every organisation has its own preferences, but our approach is to keep it simple and keep it short. The strategic plan should be a separate, but integrated component of the overall ICT business plan.  This document will describe the strategies and demonstrate how these ICT strategies support the business objectives, and any other plans, strategies, regulations or laws with which it has to comply.