Crafting a Government IT Strategy? Here’s How to Get Started.

November 22, 2021

Contributor: Jordan Turner

Good ones require involving those who will be impacted in deciding the future of IT in your organization.

Exec Summary: Start by asking your boss and staff about must-make decisions, big challenges, key priorities, their impact on your mission and past successes. Then, review your last strategy, current draft or even your approach, and use it to develop a stealth minimum-viable strategy. It should present the challenge, facilitate a decision, support recommendations and allow you to report on results.

Strategic planning should be a time of innovation and inspiration that solves current challenges and anticipates future success. However, that is not the experience of most government CIOs, who have to juggle politics, administration changes, federated governance and complex funding models across diverse stakeholders.

“It’s my hope that you can refresh how you think about your strategy, talk about your strategy and use your strategy,” says Cathleen Blanton, Gartner VP Analyst, during a recent webinar. 

Let’s examine the pragmatic ways that government CIOs can develop an effective and actionable IT strategy.

Watch now: Craft a Pragmatic Government IT Strategy That Resonates and Innovates

What constitutes a good strategy?

A practical, effective strategy provides clear and actionable decisions and choices. Do your stakeholders understand what will be different and what will be better? Your strategy must be specific to your mission and environment — and clearly identify what winning looks like.

A strategy that is impactful to the organization is inspiring. It’s important to gather buy-in and consensus across the enterprise (and ecosystem) to ensure sufficient funding and cooperation. Also, your strategy should address “What has kept us from achieving our goals in the past?” so you can anticipate risks and challenges and address them proactively.

Download now: Build an IT Strategic Plan That You Will Actually Use

Gather the right stakeholders

“The right people to make the strategy are the people who own the assets you’re defining the strategy for,” says Blanton. “Don’t do strategy to or for those stakeholders; help them do it better for themselves.” Whether it’s process owners or practice leaders, gather the right people to make decisions. Consider additional people who know what you need to know — the thought leaders, boots-on-the-ground experts and out-of-the-box thinkers. Effective strategy stakeholders have the following qualities:

  • They care about the decision.
  • They have a continuous learning attitude.
  • They are good at cross-functional collaboration.

How IT and business strategies work together

Strategy is not a document — it’s a process with different stages. The business strategy is an overarching, long-term vision that determines how you’ll succeed in your mission. 

Ideally, your IT strategy is an integral part of the greater business strategy, because the business strategy should reflect IT challenges and opportunities. The IT strategic plan sits alongside other functions like HR, marketing, supply chain and finance. Create a comprehensive game plan for achieving better business and mission results.

In this day and age, IT should be baked into the heart of your business or mission strategy. You can’t make a business capability choice that doesn’t involve IT. 

Download now: Accelerate Digital for Future-Ready Government

Gartner research suggests a template that government CIOs can leverage to develop an effective and actionable IT strategy.

Strategy is not one-and-done

Your strategy should encompass feedback loops, consistent iterations and smaller one-off strategies. Think about how to execute on a one-time basis but also how to update moving forward.

How to iterate your strategy

Step 1: Diagnose and set direction. What is the business context, objectives and goals?

Step 2: Determine strategic actions. What do we need to do first and next? What are the risks and challenges?

Step 3: Set guardrails. What are our strategic principles and metrics?

Make the strategy actionable

The final piece of the puzzle? Develop a product plan or project roadmap to execute on the strategy. This final step informs your people what they are going to be doing, what will be done differently and what progress looks like. 

Together, these are the building blocks for an executable and actionable IT strategy.

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