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The Boomer Bulletin - 2014
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Aligning Technology with Firm Goals

Posted By Eric Benson, Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Photo of Eric Benson This article is the third in a series on building an effective strategic plan for technology. The first article discussed establishing your current technology baseline. The second article helped define the direction technology was headed.

This article will discuss building the plan to present to the partner group as well as the firm. The first step will be aligning priorities to the firm’s goals. The second will be creating a one page plan that can communicate the objectives for technology, and the third will be understanding how to communicate the results of the plan for increased buy in.

Aligning technology priorities with firm goals

In the last article, we discussed creating a mission for technology in the firm. If you followed along, you also created standards that need to be in place to make the mission happen. Post these somewhere visible so that you don’t stray from your core standards or values.

There are many ways to slice and dice technology strategic plans. Below are two suggested plans of action:

  • Bottom up technology focus. This technology direction is useful for firms that are trying to shore up issues within their technology department. The goal here is excellent technology services to the firm.
  • Top down collaboration focus. Some firms already have a strong technology department. In this instance, the goal of the technology plan should be to enhance the leadership role that the technology area has in the firm.

For each plan, there are five areas to concentrate your plan around. The choice is up to you on which plan you choose – by this time in your process, it should be obvious by the documentation you’ve collected, as well as who is leading your technology planning (and how).

Bottom up technology focus

  • Service Quality. Technology is useful only if measured against the effective use of the employees of a firm. Service quality includes not only service desk turnaround times and scores, but annual surveys that discuss how effective the technology team is at delivering the right services in the right timeframe.
  • Infrastructure. Infrastructure, in this instance, refers to the backend architecture of your delivered technology services. This may include a data center on premise, a hosted site or fully cloud based applications.
  • Innovation. Technology in most firms is locked into a compliance/security mode. This is understandable in our profession, but the true value of technology comes from bringing innovative services to the firm to increase productivity, profitability or improvements to client service.
  • Cross Disciplinary. For the most part, technology project plans are implemented for system wide resources (such as a SAN) or for particular applications. However, there is an opportunity for technology resources to be involved with, or lead, other initiatives in the firm. Two ideal cross disciplinary teams are marketing and human resources.
  • Training and Development. This area will discuss professional development for technology staff as well as define any relationship technology has to internal training. Adding training to your plan means that you, as a technology team, take ownership of some aspect of the training for your team as well as the firm. This is a place where the person responsible for each initiative may not be in the technology area, but may rely on technology resources to complete projects.

Top down collaboration focus

  • Leadership. Where is the leadership for technology coming from? How is this leadership represented on the executive committee for the firm? What metrics are being used to track IT effectiveness as it relates to firm revenue?
  • Team Development. How are the technology team members being developed? What peer network(s) are being used to determine if the firm’s technology needs are on track?
  • Client Management. How is the technology of the firm supporting internal and external client needs? Are there skills that the technology department has that can be used effectively to impact other areas of the firm?
  • Business Development. What steps can the technology department in your firm take to directly impact growth of the firm? Specifically, how can technology make mergers and/or acquisitions more profitable and less resource intensive during a transition?
  • Personal Effectiveness. What technology services are being implemented across the firm? How do these services impact the firm, and what measurements are being used to verify a quality SLA (service level agreement) to the firm?

One note – the size of the firm will affect the scope of the areas above for both plan types. A single technology professional in a firm will struggle to deal with innovation and training. Other people in the firm will have to help. In a larger firm, it is easy to overlook the multi-department initiatives because the technology infrastructure and service quality become correspondingly more complex.

Create a One Page Plan

After you choose the type of plan you are going to create, you are ready to develop your plan. We recommend a one page plan format for your technology goals. Brevity brings clarity in this endeavor; if you can’t fit your strategic objectives on one page, you are focusing on too many initiatives, or you have too much detail for the plan to be strategic and easily communicated.

For some of you, a visual will work wonders. To view a sample plan based on the bottom up model, click here. For a top down collaboration plan, select this link. The top down collaboration plan is a tool from The Journey Ahead by Sandra Wiley.

The team should come together to create the plan. Make sure that the leader in the room listens to all feedback. The goal of this meeting is to create the plan based on the information you have collected along with the insights of the people in the room.

There is a specific flow to follow when completing your technology plan. Start with your strategic objectives to define the goal for each of the areas mentioned above. Once you’ve finished with your objectives, you can drill down to specific initiatives and their corresponding measurements. Finally, determine due dates and the person responsible for completing each initiative. Each step is explained in more detail below.

  • Craft your Strategic Objectives. Strategic Objectives are the defining statements of what you want to accomplish this year. It should be the level at which you communicate your plan to the firm as a whole, so each strategic objective should be clear, concise and understandable to people without a strong technology background.
  • Define your Measurements. Without a way to measure progress, there will be no way to progress. As you define your strategies, these measurements will become obvious. If they don’t, your strategies that will fulfill each strategic objective are not clear goals with defined outcomes.
  • Determine Strategies/Initiatives to complete each Objective. You will need specific steps this year to impact each strategic objective. Write down discrete steps that will move you forward for the year. This is not the time and place to write down everything you will do to "keep the lights on.” Think about how technology will impact the firm. At the end of the year, the strategies/initiatives are the talking points for how you made the firm better.
  • Decide on Due Dates. Every Strategy/Initiative should have a due date this year. There may be multi-year projects on your plan. This is realistic – most large scale hardware or software implementations take time. However, for each year, you should have a defined step and due date to accomplish for each multi-year project. For others, try to avoid putting the end of the year. If you have too many 12/31 due dates, look at how you are wording your strategies and adjust so that a specific step can be completed.
  • Assigned each Initiative an Owner. Have a point person assigned to each line in the plan. This should not be the project manager, unless the project manager is the person leading the team. This should be the influencer who is responsible for determining direction and when the intiative is done. Keep in mind that the plan will be more successful if you have people in and out of the technology team in the assigned to column.

Communicate your plan to the firm

Once your plan is complete, set a time to present the plan to the executive committee or partner group. It may be wise to roll out the plan to a smaller segment to make sure the plan is understandable.

To roll the plan out to the firm,

  • Present the plan to the group ahead of time so that people are familiar with the content.
  • Prepare a brief slide with each Strategic Objective.
  • Talk to the impact of the firm, not the benefits of the technology. Ideally, tie some of the changes you are discussing to improvements in revenue per FTE (full time equivalent employee).
  • Make sure that there is time for questions. When a detailed technology question is asked, bring the discussion back to the core strategic objectives.

From here, the plan has been created and presented. The final step is accountability to make sure the objectives on the plan are completed on time and with a focused intent. The fourth installment of this series will discuss how to keep on track with your newly created technology strategic plan.

Tags:  2014  Eric Benson  The Technology Plan 

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