Mapping IT Strategy to Business Strategy

It’s long been known that an effective IT strategy is one that underpins and works in tandem with the overall business strategy.

So what is the most effective way to do just that? How do we dissect the business strategy in a way that allows us to create and map an effective IT strategy to support it?

Whilst there are many ways to approach this, if you’re fairly new to this kind of exercise you’ll want to start with something clear and straightforward. In this article we’ll examine a method I’ll call the Business to IT Mapping Matrix.

First Steps

The first thing we need to do is get an understanding of the business strategy and the tactics being employed to achieve it. For example, let’s say our business has a strategy of increasing sales by 10% through the re-engagement of previous customers. In order to achieve this strategy the business may employ one or a number of different tactics. One of those tactics could be a structured marketing programme by implementing a new CRM solution to track the engagement of those customers.

To get this level of information it’s obviously important to engage with the business. If you’re not normally involved in the decision making process around business strategy you’ll need to approach stakeholders or build your networks internally to get a better handle on this. I’ll be discussing this aspect of leadership in later articles.

As you go through the process of collecting this information, it’s a good idea to make a note of what you find. I’ve included below a way of recording the information in a table. It will become clear later why it’s a good idea to record it this way:

Business Strategy Tactics Owner
Increase sales in the Yorkshire region by 10% through the re-engagement of previous customers and additional sales staff
Implement CRM to identify customers and track progress against marketing plan.
Bob Smith (Sales Director)
Employ 3 new sales managers for the Yorkshire region Bob Smith (Sales Director)
Become recognised as the leading supplier of widgets in the North of England by appearing in the Top 250 Widget Makers Guide. Win best North of England Supplier at the National Widget Awards in August. Sam Hill (Managing Director)

A good business strategy will always include a measure of success. For example, we’ve been specific that the business wants to increase sales by 10%.

Mapping to the IT Strategy

Armed with the business strategy and tactics we can now start to examine how this can be used to formulate an IT strategy.

To do this we need to place close attention to each tactic supporting the business strategy. This is where some good old fashioned brainstorming comes into play. We need to carefully consider each tactic and understand which existing business processes or new initiatives need to support this.

Business Strategy Tactics Owner Business Process/New Initiative
Increase sales in the Yorkshire region by 10% through the re-engagement of previous customers and additional sales staff Implement CRM to identify customers and track progress against marketing plan. Bob Smith (Sales Director) Implementation of new CRM system
Employ 3 new sales managers for the Yorkshire region Bob Smith (Sales Director) New starter process/equipment acquisition/training
Become recognised as the leading supplier of widgets in the North of England by appearing in the Top 250 Widget Makers Guide. Win best North of England Supplier at the National Widget Awards in August. Sam Hill (Managing Director) Email campaign to encourage customer voting.

Once we have an understanding of the supporting business processes and initiatives we can start to think about the IT aspects. What we need to do here is assess the technology and IT services required to support the business processes and initiatives. It’s worth remembering that we don’t necessarily have to do anything “new”. If there are systems in place already to support the tactics that’s fine, although we should consider whether they can be improved.

Business Strategy Tactics Business Process/New Initiative Supporting IT Initiative/Process
Increase sales in the Yorkshire region by 10% through the re-engagement of previous customers and additional sales staff Implement CRM to identify customers and track progress against marketing plan. Implementation of new CRM system Select and Implement New CRM System
Employ 3 new sales managers for the Yorkshire region New starter process/equipment acquisition/training
  • Increase infrastructure capacity to accommodate these and other new users
  • Increase software licence provision
Become recognised as the leading supplier of widgets in the North of England by appearing in the Top 250 Widget Makers Guide. Win best North of England Supplier at the National Widget Awards in November. Email campaign to encourage customer voting. Select and implement email marketing modules that can integrate with new CRM system.

You can see now that we have the making of a high level IT strategy. If we isolate this high level strategy and put some further structure around this it could look like the following:

Business Process/New Initiative Supporting IT Initiative/Process Timescales Responsible
Implementation of new CRM system Select and Implement New CRM System CRM system live by June 2017 Steve Sykes (IT Director)
 New starter process/equipment acquisition/training
  • Increase infrastructure capacity to accommodate these and other new users
  • Increase software licence provision
  • Licences need to be in place by 20th February 2017

Infrastructure capacity increased by 5th February 2017

Trevor Kiskin (IT Operations Manager)
Email campaign to encourage customer voting. Select and implement email marketing modules that can integrate with new CRM system. Module live by July 2017 Mike Hill (Business Analyst)

From here, individual projects can be identified with timescales and those responsible for the delivery of them.

The beauty of this approach is that it allows individual team members to see how their efforts have a direct impact on business strategy. It also provides the IT team with something they can take to the business to show not only how their IT strategy has been formulated but also how they are providing value to the business.

In summary, this isn’t the only approach to creating IT strategies. There are many other methods each with their own benefits. However, this is a straightforward way to show the business your logic and can be used in conjunction with other methods over time.