This article is the second in a series on building an effective strategic direction and budget for technology. The first article discussed getting a good picture of where you are – in other words, establishing your current technology baseline. It’s very difficult to find a solid direction if you don’t figure out what where you are. Feel free to read the first article, available on our website, before you continue.
Setting a strategic direction for technology
Having a baseline for technology in the
firm should open the eyes of the technology team as well as key stakeholders in
the firm. If you took your baseline correctly,
there was little assessment at the time, just recording. Now is the time to decide where to go from
For many, this may seem like a silly
step. You have pictures of key
technology locations so you can show improvement through the process, you’ve
collected the IT documentation and know the gaps, and it seems pretty obvious
that improving the current state is the end goal.
However, improving on what you current
have in technology is not directional.
It doesn’t question previous decisions, and it also won’t plan for future
impacts like office moves or smaller firm acquisitions (or being acquired, for
Finding a direction to go for technology
is hard in a firm that is only concerned about improving the current
state. Many firms have a growth goal
that defines how much the firm will make.
The same logic works here; without a direction to get the growth, there
will be more talk about why you’re not growing than how to grow.
This article will covers three strategies for finding a
- Establish a service tag line (mission) – Why are
- What standards do you need to take to fulfill your
- What can you do now, later and possibly never?
Why are you here?
Your firm may have branding slogan, mission or elevator
pitch that defines who your firm is. Why
is your company here? Use this as a
starting point. Then, as a team, answer
the question – why is technology here at my firm?
Here are some things to consider:
- Have everyone at the meeting write down an
answer to "Why is technology used at our firm?”
- Look at the differences – what are your common themes?
- Build a mission from here that is easy to
remember. It should be something you can
use as a litmus test for future projects and service goals.
your firm does not have a mission of its own, the technology mission statement
may need to be tweaked as time goes on.
Keep in mind that this is a living statement that adapts to change. You may get criticism that you are not in
line. Consider this excellent feedback,
and ask how you can adjust to meet the needs of the firm.
Here’s an example that we can use:
"Deliver the right digital tools for employees to perform at
What do you need to
do to fulfill the mission?
I know the propensity will be "Well, know I know the
why. Let’s get on with the list of
projects.” Again, this falls into the
hazard category; don’t fix what you have, make sure you know what to fix,
replace and/or remove.
Create a short set of standards based on the mission. These standards are important because they
will show what you will do to fulfill your mission, as well as what you will
Here are some examples based on the mission statement above.
Our standards to deliver the right digital tools for
employees to perform at maximum productivity:
- Digital tools first – drive paperless
initiatives through software and hardware selection.
- Processes are needed for maximum productivity.
- Tools are not always new programs.
- We don’t always need new tools, but we need to
pick the right ones to keep.
- We are only five staff members, our time is
limited. Make it count.
- We need to hand off non-digital tasks to other
A list like this does not have to be published to the entire
firm, but it should govern the way you engage going forward.
What can you do now,
later and possibly never?
The mission and standards are crucial if you want to drive
leadership in technology through the next phase of your technology
planning. Now that you have these, you
can start to evaluate all of the information you’ve collected.
You have a list of the top priorities for the firm, as well
as what you considered were the top priorities for technology. Are these still aligned with your mission and
standards? If so, you can proceed and look
at the top projects you’d like to complete to bring your firm closer to your mission. Try to find the largest impact projects, but
don’t remove others from the stack. As you go forward, you’ll need to pick and
choose your priorities ahead of the game, and this may be your first attempt.
Once you have a list, define the next step of each of these
top priorities. This does not have to
be detailed at this point, but you do need to be in agreement on the big
buckets and where you are going.
Where to go from here
This list, with some supporting evidence on impact and cost,
will be a key step of the next phase. If
you don’t have your executive committee or managing partner on the team, the
next step will be to create a presentation showing your mission, standard and
how each project will move the firm forward.
We’ll discuss how to do this in a way that does not hide the costs, but
looks at both costs and financial gain to the company.
The steps here
may only take one meeting to create, but I cannot state how important they are
to future success. You now have a
baseline, or starting point. You also
have a direction to take technology. The
next step is planning, and then we’ll cover accountability.
process. It may not be easy, but you are
on your way to great impact in your firm.