An Information Technology (IT) plan is a plan to acquire and optimally utilize all hardware and software resources in an organization. An IT plan should ideally be aligned with the business goals of an organization. So, the importance of an IT plan is evident. It takes time to create an IT plan because there are so many things to be taken into account. The inputs to an IT plan come from the top brass of the organization that includes the chief information officer (CIO) and the chief technology officer (CTO). A good plan not only helps an organization reach its business goals but also helps it prevent issues. An IT plan can help an organization reduce dependencies and ensure business continuity, optimally utilize resources, avoid crises, save costs and improve productivity.
Not just about hardware and software
On the face of it, an IT plan may seem about hardware and software resources but it is more than that. Basically, an IT plan should cover the following aspects of a business:
Human capital management: Human resources in an organization are viewed as an asset which should be managed well. An IT plan needs to make sure that the organization is able to manage its human assets with the help of technology, hardware and software.
Enterprise risk management: An organization needs to prepare and prevent issues that can adversely impact its assets and earnings. An IT plan needs to account for the activities it needs to undertake in order to prepare and prevent eventualities.
Cost management: Cost management is a broad activity and IT plan is an important subset. How much a company is able to control its costs depends a lot on the hardware and software policy and its risk management policy.
Technology management: IT plan needs to comprise things such as technology planning, support, disaster recovery, project management, network management, database services, security, and document services such as document formatting, e-billing, and mailing and mass printing.
Hardware and software management: An IT plan needs to comprise details such as hardware and software acquisition, specifications and configurations, license issues, cost and security issues. It appears that hardware and software policies may also intersect with technology management.
Vendor management: IT plans needs to have provision for vendor management. This activity includes, but is not limited to third-party service provider identification, participating in legal agreements, enforcement of agreement and day-to-day vendor management activities.
Why should you have an IT plan at all?
An IT plan can significantly contribute to the business goals of an organization. Without an IT plan, an organization will be exposed to big risks and with it, can experience better business processes, improved productivity and cut risks. Here are a few reasons you should be having an IT plan.
- Lenders are more likely to provide funding when you are to demonstrate concrete business plans and road maps that include IT plans. From the perspective of the lender, sound plans improve the possibility of profitability and repayment.
- Choosing hardware and software for your organization can be a complex and daunting task. Without planning, you are likely to choose the wrong hardware and software which can prove to be a costly and risk-prone proposition for your organization. An IT plan helps you choose hardware and software based on your organization’s needs and it covers all possible eventualities.
- You can brainstorm and identify economic and efficient hardware and software alternatives in the market. Planning helps you carefully identify good, economic options and avoid costly options.
- You can avoid crises such as data theft, virus and hacking attacks and data loss. Identifying poor technology and software can leave your data vulnerable to loss or corruption. That can lead to additional complications such as legal issues. IT plans help you carefully identify the right defense against data theft and data loss.
- Improve productivity by reducing hardware and software issue response time, improving issue resolution accuracy, accurate time reporting and other things.
Typical components of an IT plan
As might already be clear, an IT plan is a comprehensive and probably, a complex document covering a lot of things. It also needs to be noted that IT plans will vary across organizations depending on requirements and situations. So, an idea is given as to what should be your IT plan like.
An IT plan will be always driven by the goals and principles of the organization, not the other way round. So, start by getting information on the principles, values and mission and goals of the organization. They provide the broad guidelines for framing an IT policy. In case there are no defined business goals or principles, departments can have their individual business goals, revenue, recruitment and sales targets, acquisition or partnership plans, cost reduction plans. These details give you an idea based on which you can start framing your IT plan. When you get down to creating an IT plan, you need to keep existing resources in mind. You can create easy-to-fill templates and circulate those among departments so that they are able to provide their specific requirements in terms of hardware and software. The main objective in mind should be to support the business.
Data protection and risk management
Data protection and crisis management are two of the basic tenets of an IT plan. Attacks are so common and varied these days that it is not a question of whether you can totally protect yourself but how you can limit those attacks. To do this, you may consider hosting servers that are externally facing in an outsourced data center. Remove all unnecessary applications and services from the server because when a problem arises, the hacker will not be able to exploit the redundant systems to enter into your system. Make sure that all security patches or updates are applied on a regular basis. Lastly, whenever you have deployed a server or any other system, do not forget to change the default settings provided by the manufacturer. These settings are known to all including the hackers. To manage risks because of data loss, have sound backup systems.
Human Capital management
This includes having good HCM systems, time sheet reporting systems, appraisal and review support systems and so on. The idea is to have a set of systems that enable the human resources submit and retrieve data easily. Good HCM systems also contribute towards a lot towards good HR processes.
It is about identifying vendors or third-party providers who would be a good fit. You should be carefully drafting agreements and provisions and make sure that the service provider is honoring the provisions well. This includes hardware and software supply, Internet services and other services. The plan should include day-to-day activities and monitoring as well.
An IT plan is an important part of the overall business plan. Despite its acknowledged importance, it may be a little difficult to formulate an IT plan because of ambiguous business goals and policies. In such cases, you need to gather information from whatever sources available and start putting together the pieces. Ideally, business values and principles should come first but in spite of these, formulating a good IT plan remains a challenge.