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IT Strategic Plan: A 5-Step Planning Process (With Template)

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Article by 
Cascade Team
  —  Published 
March 8, 2023
April 24, 2024

Looking for a way to execute key IT and digital initiatives faster to support business growth? Sounds like you need a strong and well-thought-out IT strategic plan.

On paper, it sounds easy to do, right— “a well-crafted IT strategy should set a clear path on how you’re planning to enhance the business’s performance with technology.”

But developing and executing one isn’t a simple task. According to Gartner’s CIO survey, only 29% of CIOs consider their organization effective at IT strategy and planning. It’s a complex, time-consuming, bang-your-head-against-wall process (if you don’t have the right approach). 

Not to worry—that's why we're here. In this article, we’ll cover the key elements of an IT strategy plan and share a practical step-by-step process with examples to help you create and execute your own. 

Oh, did we mention you get a free IT strategic plan template?

Ready? Discover how to create an actionable and execution-ready IT strategic plan the Cascade way!

In this article, you’ll discover: 

  • What Is an IT Strategic Plan?
  • The Benefits of IT Strategic Planning
  • Key Components of an Execution-Ready IT Strategic Plan
  • The 5 Steps of a Highly Effective Strategic IT Planning Process
  • IT Strategic Plan Example + Template
  • Take Control of Your IT Strategic Planning with Cascade 🚀
Free Template Download our free IT Strategy Template Download this template

What Is An IT Strategic Plan?

An IT strategic plan is a roadmap that outlines an organization's goals and objectives for using technology to achieve its business objectives. It provides a framework for making technology-related decisions and investments that align with the organization's overall strategy.

The Benefits Of IT Strategic Planning For CIOs

In today's fast-paced and competitive environment, CIOs use IT strategic planning process to:

  • Set and align IT priorities with business objectives and goals. 
  • Prove the value and impact of IT within the organization to increase credibility and influence.
  • Assess potential risks and vulnerabilities, and develop proactive measures to prevent financial losses and reputational damage.
  • Improve communication and collaboration by breaking down silos, ensuring everyone is on the same page, and rowing in the same direction. 
  • Focus on IT projects with the greatest potential for impact and ROI, maximizing the value of IT investments and ensuring efficient use of resources.
  • Help organizations stay ahead of digital transformation, technology trends and adapt to changing business needs, keeping technology aligned with organizational needs.

Key Components Of An Execution-Ready IT Strategic Plan

An execution-ready IT strategic plan is more than words on paper. It’s an action plan to improve your company’s technological capabilities and deliver business value. 

If you want to inspire alignment and drive ownership for successful strategy execution, your IT strategic plan should include these elements:

🔎Focus areas: Where should your team focus the attention and efforts? What area of IT will have the most impact on the business strategy?

📌Goals and objectives: What do you want to achieve exactly? Your goals and objectives are the outcomes you’re aiming for. 

💰Budget: What resources do you have to achieve your goals and objectives? Are your plans realistic?

😎Owners: Who is in charge of projects and accountable for their success? Your IT strategic plan needs individuals or teams to ensure it is executed.

📆Due dates: When do specific actions, initiatives, and projects need to happen? Your IT strategic plan needs timeframes and deadlines to be enforced and acted upon.

📤Actions: What specific initiatives, deliverables, or projects need to happen within your focus areas? Your IT strategic plan should provide clear and actionable steps for teams to reach goals.

📈Measures: How will you track progress as your teams execute? Which are the most important IT KPIs your team should track and report upon? A solid IT strategic plan will have an element of progress tracking that promotes consistency and accountability.

👉 Click here to get your free IT strategic plan template (P.S.: The template has all the key elements described above and is pre-filled with examples so you can start working on it right away.)

The 5 Steps Of A Highly Effective Strategic IT Planning Process

So, now that you know which elements you need to include in your IT strategic plan, let's explore how to get there.

Here are five steps to achieve effective IT strategic planning and execution:

1. The alignment phase: IT strategy is part of your business strategy

While IT strategic planning focuses on medium-term goals, CIOs must consider the realm beyond their IT environment (i.e., your company goals).

In the HBR survey, 77% of respondents said the disconnect between IT and business strategies is resulting in significant costs. 

This is a vital consideration for IT leaders. You must be aware of the dangers of misaligned or isolated strategic planning. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking your IT planning process is separate from other business processes or goals. 

To top it off, a study from Workday found that one-third (31%) of companies are rarely aligned on their digital finance transformation goals, with CFOs citing this as a top barrier to successful digital transformation initiatives. 

Focus less on technology talk and more on business strategy outcomes. 

Schedule a strategic planning workshop and kick it off with a recap and discussion about goals that the company is pursuing to understand how technology can help achieve those goals. 

👉Here’s how Cascade can help you: 

Use the Alignment View to get a visual overview of strategic alignment between your IT plan and business strategy. You can also use it to check how your existing IT initiatives contribute to the success of the business strategy.

visual overview of strategic alignment between your IT plan and business strategy in cascade

2. The analysis phase: What should your IT strategy focus on

According to Gartner's 2023 CIO and Technology Executive Survey, 95% of organizations struggle to develop a vision for digital change, often due to competing stakeholder expectations.

Sure, the squeaky wheel usually gets the most grease, but don’t use this as your base to identify strategic priorities. This approach won’t move the needle for the organization. Instead, focus on what will have the highest impact on the organization in the future and prioritize those initiatives.

As a strategic leader and changemaker, you’ve got to ask yourself: 

  • How should the business approach these challenges? 
  • What projects should we prioritize for maximum impact in the future? 
  • If everyone’s investing in automation, cybersecurity/information security, and data centers, should we be doing the same? 
  • Do we have enough resources to support our current strategy, or do we need to develop new resources? 

Researching IT priorities for your organization based on market impact is a good start, and you can do this with reports, industry research, and other data.

But, Gartner also suggests that you should also look to others within your organization to provide insights and different perspectives on priorities and challenges, for example:

  • Leadership signals. 
  • Stakeholders in the business who share your vision (Ideal Partners).
Gartner CIO Agenda Report

💡 Top tip: Your people and teams are valuable assets for identifying areas of IT investment. Bring key stakeholders into your strategic planning process to level up your strategic analysis and research.

3. The goal-setting phase: Who is responsible for what?

Next, decide how your IT strategic plan will filter into actionable projects for different teams to execute.

To drive outcomes, goals need to have owners who will manage their initiatives to completion. These initiatives also need to be aligned with your high-level planning as well as the organization’s broader strategic objectives.

Sound like a difficult balancing act? Not if you take a systematic approach. 

A simple way to get started with goal-setting in a strategy-aligned way is to use a three-column table.  

  1. Jot down business objectives and problems in column A.
  2. See how your IT strategy can support or improve them in column B.
  3. Assign project owners to each initiative in column C.

For example:

Column A: What are our business goals or problems? 

  • Improve customer experience

Column B: How can our IT strategy support it?

  • Optimize our data analytics capabilities and IT infrastructure.
  • Implement new CRM software.
  • Develop and deploy new digital solutions to improve customer experience.

Column C: Who is responsible for achieving this?

  • Optimize our data analytics capabilities and IT infrastructure → Data Analytics Manager & Data Team.
  • Implement new CRM software → Customer Support Team & IT Team.
  • Develop and deploy new digital solutions to improve customer experience → Customer Experience Manager & IT Team.

Setting your IT goals this way will ensure that actions consistently align with your company’s strategic objectives. You’ll also be able to see if your strategic goals are realistic and within your budget. Plus, you'll ensure each goal has an owner rather than lacking clarity over accountability and realizing this in your next review. 

Once you’re done, go through your table and look for overlapping imperatives, opportunities to streamline execution, and how to prioritize goals. 

Additionally, share them with other key internal and external stakeholders, get feedback, and make changes based on their perspectives. 

👉Here’s how Cascade can help you:

With Cascade's Strategy Planner, you can easily set IT goals and align them with business objectives in a centralized platform. During setup, you'll be able to add a goal's owner, collaborators, due dates, and measure of success. Doing so can keep everyone on the same page and accountable for progress. 

Here’s an example of IT objectives and goals in Cascade:

IT planner objectives and goals in cascade
Free Template Download our free IT Strategy Template Download this template

4. The execution phase: How to get it right

The way you approach strategy execution can make or break the work you’ve put into your strategic planning. 

A successful and fast execution phase has two equally important parts:

  1. Building a clear and actionable execution plan with key elements developed in the previous steps. 
  2. Communicating this plan to your stakeholders. Not just to your IT department, but to everyone who will be involved or affected by the execution of your plan. 

To execute your IT strategic plan successfully, ensure that your stakeholders understand the IT strategy's goals, importance, and potential impact. Clarify IT governance, functions, and responsibilities, and establish communication channels to support transparency and cross-collaboration. 

Clarity and strong execution are critical to achieving your IT goals and delivering real value.

Here are two things you can do to get it right:

  1. Use visual tools: Create strategic roadmaps to communicate plans and timelines.
  2. Get the wheel spinning early in the process: Hold a workshop or meeting to officially kick off your execution phase. Use this opportunity to explain the strategic direction, who will be involved in the execution, and why you are doing it. 

👉Here’s how Cascade can help you: 

Simplify how you view your planning and execution: Cascade’s Timeline (Roadmap) view lets you visualize IT goals, plans, and progress in an easy-to-read Gantt-chart-style interface. Use it to plan and monitor your IT strategic plan in one place.

IT plan timeline roadmap in cascade

5. The monitoring and adaption phase: Stay on your toes

According to Gartner’s survey of 2,387 CIOs and technology executives, more than half of digital transformation initiatives take too long to execute and more than 50% take too long to realize value.  

Strategy execution isn’t a matter of set-and-forget or one-then-done. 

Plans must be acted on, projects must move forward, and expectations must be met. If you're not actively monitoring strategic initiatives, how do you know if you’ll be able to deliver the promised business value of IT? 

Progress reporting and monitoring should be a top priority for CIOs after a strategy kickoff, especially since only 18% of team members review progress on weekly basis. This means enforcing KPIs (key performance indicators), using the right tools to monitor performance, and regular check-ins with IT project owners. 

Sure,  it’s easier said than done at scale, but here are some tips to get it right:

  • Use a performance management system: Use it to get an accurate picture of milestones, top performers, and address execution issues proactively.
  • Be ready to adapt and optimize:  Any solid strategic plan will include long-term initiatives that can take three or five years to implement. A great one will be ready to pivot and change in the face of new technology, information, and approaches. Being flexible and open to new opportunities is essential to stay ahead in today's constantly evolving landscape.
  • Stop wasting time with manual reporting: The old way of PPT presentations, Word docs, and PDF reports won’t cut it in today’s pace of business. Think about it—every second used to type, send, and read those reports could be channeled into achieving better business outcomes. 

👉Here’s how Cascade can help you:
Leverage data sources from anywhere: Cascade's thousands of integrations allow you to consolidate disconnected business tools in one place, reducing context switching and helping to create a single source of truth.

Monitor progress with live dashboards: Use a powerful Dashboards feature to streamline insights into performance, monitor critical metrics, and promote data-driven decision-making.

Keep everyone in the loop: With Cascade’s Strategy Reports, you can instantly visualize data, contextualize any breakthrough or setback, and share updates with your teams in engaging ways.

gif of a report in cascade

Example of a report in Cascade.

📌Remember that successful IT strategies depend on:

  1. Proper research and planning.
  2. Involving different stakeholders in the strategic planning process.
  3. Setting realistic goals.
  4. Communicating the strategic plan effectively to a wider audience.
  5. Monitoring progress and adjusting as teams execute.

IT Strategic Plan Example + Template 

Get a headstart on your IT strategic planning with our IT Strategic Plan Template

it strategy plan template

What do I get?  This information technology strategic plan comes prefilled with IT KPIs, Projects, Goals, and Focus Areas to help you hit the ground running. 

What if I want to customize it? While it’s pre-filled with examples, you can easily adjust, modify, and customize input to meet your needs. 

Is it right for me? It’s perfect for CIOs, IT departments, and digital transformation leaders who need to create a strategic plan for their departments and show the ROI of IT initiatives to the leadership team. 

👉What are you waiting for? Start developing your IT Strategic Plan today. Click the link here and get your free template. 

This template doesn’t match your needs? You can explore our strategy template library with over 1000 templates, including: 

Take Control of Your IT Strategic Planning with Cascade 🚀

A well-thought-out IT strategic plan is critical for IT leaders who want their organization to stay relevant in a rapidly changing world.

But it’s not enough to maintain a competitive edge and grow your business. Companies with growth-focused mindsets need a platform that makes strategic execution central to how they do business.

With Cascade, you can turn your IT vision into a future-proof strategic plan your teams can work towards and deliver business results. 

Start today with a free forever plan or book a 1:1 product tour with Cascade's in-house strategy expert.

Free Template Download our free IT Strategy Template Download this template

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