As an IT infrastructure software vendor selling a strategic solution, we routinely have access to strategic plans FROM CIOs of Global 2000 and Fortune 500 companies. We have absolutely seen a shift in the past two years, in particular, to embrace Digital Transformation directly in the strategic plan. Every CIO is either driving disruption or reacting to disruption in their industry. Those that are not are either out of work or in a dying company.
We primarily see a PowerPoint presentation laying out three goals:
- Goal 1: embrace a new technology type based on the industry. This might be cloud for centralized IT (HPC situations, financial or technical data processing), SD-WAN for remote sites (bank branches, retail locations), SD networking for complex network environments (technology companies, globally distributed corporations). Increasingly, companies are using these technologies to add business value, rather than simply keeping pace with technological changes. This has led to an embracing of what may be referred to as “Software-defined IT Operations” (SDO). For IT, a next-generation view of network monitoring that can predict problems before they affect business performance.
- Goal 2: improve user experience. Typically, industry-specific but generally involves rewriting, integrating and optimizing existing user experiences. In retail, for example, every major is fighting Amazon and looking to differentiate with an integrated in store and online presence. Combining a personal online experience with rapid prototyping/manufacturing enables custom one off’s in specialty brands. AI and ML allows a JIT type footing in just about every industry, and an Uber like sharing experience are all models we have seen in strategic plans.
- Goal 3: save cost/drive efficiency. While arguably a byproduct of well-executed goals 1 and 2, the CIO feels compelled to articulate a cost savings goal likely for the benefit of the CFO, CEO and Board. Timing of needed cost savings will also drive the extent to which goals 1 and 2 can be implemented, as trades will be required.
It tends to remain up to level below the CIO, EVP/SVP/VP, to translate the strategic plan into actionable efforts that are measurable and reportable. Strategic planning appears to be on an annual basis, but the year over year change since the hard shift to transformational footing appears to be minimal.
We have heard, but not seen often in writing, guiding principles specific to strategic planning. Examples of guiding principles might be “cloud first” but not “cloud only,” or perhaps a driver to a unique user experience scenario, as in the case of technology intersections with manufacturing, allowing a company to take advantage of a unique aspect of their company.
The c-suite is today looking at IT for corporate and industry differentiation, and the CIO that delivers is the CIO that succeeds in today’s business.