The 15-Year IT Strategic Plan

Mary E. Shacklett, President, Transworld Data | 11/22/2011 | 19 comments

Mary E. Shacklett
When you think about a 15-year IT strategic plan, Japan naturally comes to mind. Japanese companies plan for the long term and are unswayed by short-term performance surpluses or shortfalls. This is because they believe in a more lasting vision of where they expect to be in the marketplace and how they will be positioned for growth.

But in America, I can attest that CIOs rarely get to discuss 15-year plans, if ever. This isn't even a practical consideration for most American companies.

The reasons are easy to understand. Shareholders in US companies expect immediate results and examine them quarterly. Remembering my semiconductor days, in quarters when we were up, we were greeted with cheers, handshakes, and bonuses. In the down quarters, we risked increased scrutiny and even termination. It made those of us sitting in “mahogany row” wonder if it would even be possible to think about a “long term” beyond the next three years at most.

This makes it all the more remarkable that a major American manufacturer is working with 15-year strategic plans, including one for the IT department. The company (which asked not to be named) is five years into its 15-year plan, and the results are impressive.

In IT, the corporate datacenters are 85 percent virtualized, far above the 30-50 percent virtualization rates of many enterprises. Since this company's business operations are global, the datacenters are, too. They operate nonstop with an IT staff that “follows the sun” with 24/7 service and support. A carefully orchestrated staffing plan has subject matter experts on hand in every datacenter for every technology that IT employs (i.e., there is no waiting for answers or fixes until corporate “wakes up”).

The company applies a proven cost structure algorithm to all facets of its datacenters and IT infrastructure. This virtually guarantees excellent ROI (return on investment) and TCO (total cost of ownership) for every IT technology and strategy -- something most CIOs just dream about.

The company is not heavily engaged in the private cloud as yet, but it sees no compelling business case for being in that area. The important thing is that corporate IT has the agility to move in that direction from both the technology and IT staffing standpoints if it needs to.

Just how did the company get there -- especially in an industry sector (manufacturing) with a notoriously slow IT adoption rate?

“Twenty years ago, we made the decision that, as IT, we had to sell our solutions to business units,” said the company’s CIO. This created a mindset and a culture in IT that looked into the business value of any technology before proposing it.

“We focused on rapid application deployment, but what we meant by that is that there would be the kind of IT velocity of change that would facilitate a total transformation of the business,” the CIO said. “In other words, our focus was always on our end customer.”

That business focus meant IT did not necessarily follow every new technology fad, the CIO said:

Those of us who have been in the business for a while recognize that computing is just one big cycle. Early on, we centralized our operations. We never stopped doing that, even in the 1980s, when the move was to distributed computing. We believed in our long-term plan and in the soundness of centralized computing, which is now back with virtualization. Instead, we focused on standardizing our IT environment and practices to facilitate agility.

The agility has enabled IT to scale infrastructure and staff -- and to do whatever it needs to do to transform the business. The foundation of the 15-year IT strategic plan has anchored this activity with a vision that is withstanding the vicissitudes of technology and business.

What makes this story so compelling is that it is being told against a backdrop of thousands of companies that struggle annually in the funding and deployment of IT. For most of these organizations, it would take a dramatic leap of faith (and a complete change of management philosophy) to entertain the idea of a longer-term plan built on standards and the ability and desire to deliver consistent value that transforms the business for the long term.

Nevertheless, when you look at the results, it’s hard to argue with success.

View Comments: Newest First | Oldest First | Threaded View
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Mary E. Shacklett   The 15-Year IT Strategic Plan   12/1/2011 10:24:45 AM
Re: Nothing Suceeds Like Success.
You're very welcome, Ashish.
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eethtworkz   The 15-Year IT Strategic Plan   12/1/2011 9:32:39 AM
Re: Nothing Suceeds Like Success.
Mary,

Thanks a lot for bringing up such a wonderful article in the first place.

I will look forward to your follow-up piece on this Manufacturer's story.

Regards

Ashish.
Mary E. Shacklett   The 15-Year IT Strategic Plan   11/30/2011 5:28:27 PM
Re: IT plan
One of the keys  to a long term plan is building in the agility so you can respond to new  tech  breakthroughs easily.

This is  usually reflected in thoughtful infrastructures and well-trained IT staff.
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Mary E. Shacklett   The 15-Year IT Strategic Plan   11/30/2011 5:26:19 PM
Re: Nothing Suceeds Like Success.
I will see about this,  Ashish.

 

Mary
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eethtworkz   The 15-Year IT Strategic Plan   11/30/2011 1:51:38 PM
Re: IT plan
ImpactNow,

Don't these 10-15 year old plan remind you about the communists and their various plans for running the country???

I agree that just having a plan in place is not sufficent.It should be flexible and adaptable enough to ensure that it can be modified enough to suit changes.But my feeling is that is exactly how it works in this Manufacturing Organization.

They have a basic guideline in place (which is 15 years in the making) and then changes get made according to various enterprise user needs/demands.

One question-What level of adaptibility would you prefer in the system-Should there be real-time updates in the Guidelines???

Regards

Ashish.
impactnow   The 15-Year IT Strategic Plan   11/30/2011 10:28:50 AM
IT plan

Ashish I am referring to tablets and smart phones, I agree that we have to not get caught in fads but it’s also important to not miss out on new trends. Many governments used to do 10 year and twenty year plans they quickly realized they weren’t working and aged quickly. Planning is much better than being reactionary but the level of planning needs to be explored.

eethtworkz   The 15-Year IT Strategic Plan   11/30/2011 9:47:38 AM
Re: Strategy within reason
Mary,

Very,very true.

No doubt about it.

Ashish.
eethtworkz   The 15-Year IT Strategic Plan   11/30/2011 9:45:51 AM
Re: planning flexibility
Impactnow.

I am assuming you are about tablets here.

It is true that every new technology that enters the enterprise has the possibility/potential to revolutionize/transform things there but deciding on the final impact which is to Make Business easier and Increase Profits takes time.

This is primarily where the 15year strategic plan idea comes in.

I like it too.It gives CIOs and senior IT execs time to execute plans most effectively to better serve  Enterprise users instead of getting carried away with each and every fad..

Regards

Ashish.

 
eethtworkz   The 15-Year IT Strategic Plan   11/30/2011 9:41:23 AM
Nothing Suceeds Like Success.
Mary,

This is a very vital fact of life/Business.Nothing Succeeds and gets the Kudos like Success.

Could you do a follow piece on this manufacturer's IT department in the future???

I am particularly interested in two areas.

1) The Staffing trend-In particular how much time is the company able to retain IT employees and what level of Offshoring/Outsourcing is employed by this company.

2)How fast /rapid is the Technology refresh cycle as well as Implementation of major trends.

I really liked what the CIO said here

"In other words, our focus was always on our end customer.”

This is how it should always be.

Regards

Ashish.


 
impactnow   The 15-Year IT Strategic Plan   11/28/2011 12:46:45 PM
planning flexibility

Sara I agree a plan is important but would anyone have predicted the impact tables would have had on every aspect of business—its hard to plan for something that would be a game changer and completely redirect so many aspects of business. Smartphones are also an example of this with their location marketing potential.

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