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Don’t Leap Before You Look

By Richard Brennan  |  Posted 2009-11-11 Print this article Print

If your IT strategy is underperforming, try focusing on capabilities that can help you execute that strategy.

Don’t Leap Before You Look

When companies leap from business strategy directly to technology initiatives, they risk the consequence of not having the core capabilities necessary to leverage the system or application appropriately in order to ensure the success of the project. Most people become fascinated with the promise of technology and are happy to dive immediately into the next juicy project without understanding the longer-term business implications.

IT strategy should focus on business results and not on the technological possibilities available. The leadership team first needs to understand the capabilities they already have and the ones they will need before engaging with specific projects.

When you leap from strategy directly to technology project implementation, the following things can happen:

• Projects become one-off and monolithic, as opposed to modular, adding significant time to completion.

• Technology strategies become confused with using the newest technologies instead of focusing on delivering on business objectives, thus wasting resources.

• It becomes difficult to determine how effectively business objectives are addressed, risking the chance that costly mistakes will be repeated.

• Companies fail to benefit from the competitive advantage IT can provide.

What can be been done differently to avoid these consequences? One option is taking an approach that moves from the desired business strategy to a determination of necessary capabilities, and then to the projects that build and enable those capabilities.

Technology organizations typically fall into one of three categories in terms of how they manage their IT strategies and investments. Every organization falls somewhere on the steward, partner or differentiator continuum, depending on its market and how focused it is on capabilities or tactics. It’s possible for various IT organizations within a company to operate in different areas on the continuum, depending on strategy.

Richard Brennan is a managing director in Tipperary Partners, a Denver-based technology strategy and advisory firm.
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