Five steps for building a business-driven technology strategy framework

Technology is a key enabler of a successful business, something that is becoming even more critical in a turbulent economic climate. By closely aligning technology strategy with overarching corporate objectives, leaders are better able to adapt and respond quickly to market changes, evolving customer demands, and emerging trends.  

And, as cost optimization (and even cost take-out activities) remains a key priority, a clear technology strategy enables executives to optimize their human, financial, and IT resources to avoid duplication of efforts and unnecessary expenses that may impede bottom-line performance. Additionally, with cybercrime growing exponentially, a comprehensive tech strategy helps identify and mitigate risks more effectively by incorporating data privacy, compliance, and disaster recovery.  

Perhaps most importantly for many of our clients, a business-driven tech strategy is designed to evolve with your growth agenda, ensuring your infrastructure, processes, and systems are equipped to accommodate increasing demand. This way, you can be sure that every initiative has material business impact and ROI in both the immediate and long-term. 

When planning your strategy, we recommend following five steps to ensure you learn everything about your business, fully identify your medium- to long-term problems and goals, and ultimately reach your target state. 

A note on flexibility 

As with all technology strategy initiatives, it is important to remember that every business is different, and every framework should be molded to meet your specific business needs; as a result, you will see variations in how to approach each phase based on the scope or goal of your technology initiative. For example, an IT support technology roadmap will likely focus on identifying the inventory of support models and vendors to find opportunities for consolidation and cost savings. Conversely, if you are looking to streamline your manufacturing processes, you may prioritize identifying your uniquely differentiated capabilities and enabling them within the organization.  

1. Articulate your company vision

You might have established goals but not a path to achieving them, or you might be experiencing growth and need assistance scaling it. Alternatively, you may have plans for the future but don’t know what it takes to get there. As a first step, we recommend aligning your leadership team to discuss your company vision. By coordinating on this ‘north star’, you will make sure that your technology strategy is closely aligned with objectives, enabling you to optimize resources, manage risks and drive innovation – giving you a competitive edge for long-term success. Company vision is absolutely essential to dictate and drive a strong tech strategy for any growth aspiring organization, and this vision and your strategic directives will be what you point back to regularly to guide decision making along the journey. 

2. Consider your strategic directives for the next 3-5 years

The next component of a sound business-driven technology strategy is outlining your company’s strategic directives for the near-term. These objectives, defined by leadership, can be used as an anchor for the resulting assessments and recommendations. Not having these defined and aligned with the ‘north star vision’ significantly increases the likelihood that your team will chase a moving target, which decreases the likelihood of the initiative’s success. 

To the fullest extent possible, these objectives should contain a measurable value that represents some form of impact on the business. It is often helpful to build an understanding of the metrics that the business tracks each day and how they are calculated, using existing documentation, interviews, and workshops. There are typically a few key metrics that are used as a day-to-day indicator of performance and used to drive management-level key decision making – some form of optimization of, or at minimum maintenance of, these metrics are likely to fall into the strategic objectives and will be watched closely by your operators as strategy is deployed. 

3. Identify required capabilities

Once you’ve established your strategic directives, we recommend mapping the business capabilities required to execute them. This is critical to understanding where potential optimizations can be made and where significant investments in technology can provide the most value.   

For example, a capability maturity assessment will measure how advanced a business capability is in terms of process, people, technology, and assets (read our paper on this here). A strategic assessment like this will provide grades and priorities for further improvements to be explored during roadmapping.  

It’s important to determine which capabilities provide a distinct competitive advantage or business value for a company. For capabilities that provide business differentiators, there’s often significant ROI in pursuing unique technological approaches when you begin developing the roadmap. Remember, you will determine the appropriate capability maturity level by your business objectives; that is to say, an immature capability doesn’t necessarily need to be “matured” if it doesn’t drive significant value or differentiation.  

This step can also involve analyzing and rationalizing processes to find out which are necessary and what can be standardized, as well as prioritizing and rating current technology competencies within the current organization. Additionally, it can incorporate mapping current technologies to the business capabilities they enable or support. 

4. Develop your options

The next step to building a comprehensive business-driven technology strategy is to use the information acquired in your business capability work to create a perspective on the potential options that could satisfy your long-term requirements. Your choices at this point will depend on the technology decisions already made and by evaluating viable software solutions, vendors, and hosting alternatives. What solutions are the best fit? What gaps need to be addressed with tech? Do you need commercial off-the-shelf solutions or something custom? Your options aren’t just related to technology; you will need to consider other factors (internal and external), dependencies, and your company culture. 

For example, suppose you’ve decided to build a custom solution or to utilize a specific market solution. In that case, the next step will be to move into roadmapping and business case development. The activities involved here will typically include delivery partner assessment and selection, organizational definition, requirement refinement, delivery timeline, and cost definition. 

Ideally, you will take forward a single option. Taking more than three options to the roadmapping stage is highly discouraged, as each option can significantly increase the time and cost of performing the project’s next phase. The strategic roadmap you choose should be the one that is the closest in alignment with your business goals, as mapped out in steps one and two. 

5. Define your strategic roadmap

After a set of solution options are defined, the final step is to narrow the field of options to take into the strategic roadmapping phase. Questions to consider include “what is the plan to get to the future state? What software, partners and approaches should be leveraged for this new solution set? What modifications to internal talent or processes must be made? How will change be managed?” Your strategic roadmap should also include costs and benefits to avoid unnecessary or unforeseen expenditures.  

It is important to note that any roadmap should consider not only your company’s vision and objectives but also dependencies, internal factors, external factors, and company culture. Additionally, most roadmaps have an organized way to identify key milestones that represent the realization of some value in the form of cost reduction, risk reduction, or improved stakeholder satisfaction. 

Ensuring your organizational model supports your technology strategy 

It is common for businesses to be concerned about what talent they need to deliver on a strategy and how they need to organize that talent; most technology strategy programs are accompanied by a talent adjustment and often an organizational model modification. In our experience, the type of resources a program needs varies on its goals, technology scope, and level of complexity. However, common roles to consider include executive leadership, program and product management, developers, data experts, UI and UX designers, DevOps, business SMEs, and business analysts. 

In addition to having the right talent, your organization must be able to effectively control the program, project, or initiative intake, perform impact assessments, and appropriately prioritize the inbound requests – as well as manage change. This role is often taken on by a centralized Enterprise Technology (ET) team or Center of Excellence (COE) that becomes increasingly more important with a company’s growth in size or operational complexity.  

Ultimately, any technology strategy must be closely aligned with your business goals; we always advise clients to talk to their people, fully learn their processes, and understand what makes their company unique before embarking on a new program. Only by understanding your company’s problems and mapping ROI can you clearly define and articulate the actual goals and KPIs of any project and evolution. To find out more about how we can help you define your business-driven tech strategy, get in touch. 

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