The challenge of strategies

The challenge of strategiesThe term ‘strategy’ has many definitions which can be applied across all levels of an organization from business strategy to functional strategy. It can be identified as the amount of detail required to achieve an end goal. It can also be used euphemistically to describe a series of business articulations to identify the actions needed for the long-term success of an organization. As Emily Chan (2009) identifies, business leaders now have tools and other methods at their disposal to ‘bring a significant degree of analytical rigor into strategy’. According to Chan, these tools and methods are ‘Frameworks, Data Management, Classic Strategies and Process’. Do these sound familiar? It is important to note that commonly used business management activities have always been included in ITIL material, particularly in the Business Perspective publication. Similarly, quality management techniques were described extensively in Planning to Implement Service Management in the V2 suite of products now embedded in the continual service improvement process in V3.

As we have seen before, organizations are dynamic entities and in his research, Mintzberg (2000) describes some fundamental challenges to strategic planning. These are important to note because, as we will see later, they have a bearing on successful ITIL implementations.

To better understand how strategy is perceived, Mintzberg quotes evidence to describe the symbiotic relationship between planning and forecasting and the inherent difficulties posed. He states that ‘planning, in the absence of an ability to control the environment, must rely on forecasting, and because forecasting amounts to extrapolation of known states, existing trends or recurring patterns planning typically works best under conditions of relative stability’. To paraphrase Mintzberg, it is also a perception of strategic planning which has to have a point of reference whereby everything is on hold until the planning is done. All this is relevant when considering the evolution of services within an organization. With IT’s criticality within the business, it is essential that information systems development sits at the heart of business planning. This is, of course, the ethos of ITIL V3 Service Strategy.

To further support this argument, back in 2003, Ross identified that ‘firms have not derived value simply by linking IT to their business processes. Rather, they have learned how to benefit from IT by developing a competency in creating and evolving an enterprise IT architecture’. In aligning business strategy and IT capabilities, IT enterprise architecture has to identify and understand the organization’s strategic objectives. In her research Ross quoted the challenge faced by a business architect. She stated: ‘So we started working on understanding the business strategy, and what we discovered was that they really didn’t have a business strategy. What they had were a lot of promises’. So if understanding the business strategy is a challenge in itself, how can IT capabilities be developed sufficiently to respond to evolving needs and within a workable timeframe? The evolving framework of ITIL describes ways which will significantly improve the success of business strategic and IT architecture planning. Ross’s research identifies that business improves its value when it capitalizes on the learning from different architectural approaches, culminating in a resilient modular architectural scenario.