I’ve written in the past about how technology professionals are in
the midst of a transition from hardware maintenance to service delivery.
This shift is happening faster in certain areas of firms than others, but there
is no denying that the shift is in place and accelerating.
However, there are a few things that won’t change. I imagine most people reading this article
will immediately think of the computer, tablet, phone or other device you are
reading this on. Information that is
delivered to these screens is not going away.
Information and technology professionals might jump to their data
center (or private cloud, depending on how trendy you are). Again, this is important and the mechanics of
delivery are often unknown or mystifying to the firm as a whole.
Finally, strategy and effective governance will never go away. In fact, I believe technology professionals
will need to establish a strong strategic role in the firm to insure continued
value and employment in the firm.
This article is the first in a series on building an effective
strategic direction and budget for technology.
We’ll focus on creating basic alignment between firm leadership and
technology – resulting in a starting point.
Getting a good picture of where you are
This article will cover four strategies for getting a good
- Discuss the idea of building a strong direction
with the right people in your firm.
Build the team and get commitment.
- Create a physical and visual inventory of the
state of technology in your firm
- Collect and distribute any current project
plans, budgets, assessments and methods of project approval
- Survey key leaders in the firm regarding both
high priority projects for the firm and for technology
1. Build a team
Even in smaller firms, the typical reaction to creating an
IT plan or direction is to sit down and ask the IT leader what he or she wants
to do. The discussion may never even
happen due to lack of understanding on the part of leadership or technology.
To get around this hurdle, start small. The partner in charge of technology (or
equivalent professional) should sit down with the IT leader and discuss who
should be on the team. Brainstorm. Pick from a mix of firm members, from partner
down to newer staff members. Find people
who are vocal in the technology area (good or bad) as well as technologically
savvy people in the firm.
Invite these people to a meeting and discuss the role of the
team. The goal is to solidify a
direction for technology, provide firm-wide perspective and look at the whole
picture. Having a wide range of people
will bring up issues that others may not know about.
Agree to meet weekly until the project is complete. For smaller firms, this will only take a few
weeks. For larger firms, this may be a
long term committee. In either case, get
2. Create a physical
and visual inventory of technology in the firm
The typical technology inventory is a spreadsheet of
servers, capacities and other data.
There may be software in place to track inventory as well. These are very helpful, but sit down and
figure out what is not on the list and document it. This may require people from other offices to
help. Get the team to help distribute
A second piece that is crucial is a visual inventory. Take pictures of server closets or data
centers. Take pictures of the standard
workstation layouts. If there are no
standards, document this in pictures.
Take pictures of every primary location that technology exists. Add in notes of where the picture was taken,
and ask for comments as you do.
The visual inventory will highlight inconsistencies and
places where the technology is hidden with good reason. This is not a place to judge; this is a
picture of where you are. It will give
you a visual indicator of progress as you move through a strategic technology
plan to address any issues that are uncovered.
3. Collect and
distribute other technology documents and procedures
Besides the typical IT inventory, there is often a project
plan or project list. Find this and any
other documents used to run the IT department.
Also, look at help desk ticketing systems and pull out basic
statistics. Don’t overkill on the
data. Collect the IT budget – even if it
is the expenses for the year (or last year) from the controller or CFO. The
procedure IT goes through to get approval for projects is also a key piece to
collect here. Are decisions made and
then reapproved at time of purchase?
What kind of autonomy is available to IT with regard to spending?
In addition, collect key firm strategic documents. Collect the firm’s strategic plan, and if
possible, collect the budget for the year.
The idea is collect what you have. You may find that the pieces of successful IT
governance are already in place but poorly organized, or that much of the work
is done on an as needed basis. Realize
this is a baseline. Having others look
at the work will help provide insight.
There may be other tools in the firm that could be used in the
technology area. The opposite may be
true as well.
4. Survey key leaders
in the firm regarding high priority projects
This exercise will be very insightful for the technology
planning committee. Key players in the
firm should fill out this simple survey:
- What are the five top priorities or projects for
the firm this year?
- What are the five top technology priorities for
Have the managing partner, IT supervisor and IT leader in
the firm fill this survey out independently.
If they are in close alignment, then your firm is ahead and the rest of
the planning should go well. If not, now
is the time to know that you have alignment issues.
Where to go from here
This information should provide a very good picture of where
you are. There will be obvious gaps that
should be filled – like a project plan but no formal IT budget. List these out. Also, list out the strengths you see. This should not be all about the negatives.
The next few articles will establish additional stages for
successful IT planning. The second will focus on charting the
destination point for this year, and hopefully many years in the future. The third article will look into building a
plan and budget to fulfill getting to the destination point. Finally, the fourth will discuss
accountability and tracking progress towards these goals.
this process, you should be on your way to effective technology use and
improved value to the firm as a whole.
Planning is only as good as the ability to follow up, so we will spend
quite a bit of time on accountability at the end.
If you do take
this path, I cannot state strongly enough that you are setting up a
baseline. There will always be room for
improvement. Realize where you are for
what it really is; an exercise to improve firm performance and overall
revenue. We’ll discuss improvements and
direction after this point, not during.
Enjoy the process!