Author: Mark Clark, subject specialist infrastructure, Jisc
Organisations rely heavily on their IT department to provide critical services yet find themselves stretched and without the support of senior leaders.
Their services keep the business afloat; therefore, they need the proper provisions to deliver. To further your chances of securing resources and investment, you need the support of your fellow senior leaders. To engage them in your department – showcase what your services achieve and how that reinforces the business objectives.
To do this, you can start with an IT service strategy and take the following planning and management steps to secure senior leadership support for your department.
What is an IT service strategy, and why is it a must-have?
The main goal of an IT service strategy is to outline what services are delivered, identify key objectives and allocate resources. Your organisation likely already has other strategies, such as a corporate strategy, and the IT one should support that.
Senior leaders think strategically, and having a strategy will allow you to communicate how your IT department is aligned with the business. However, that’s not all. An IT service strategy can also help you make an investment case. Whether it’s to refresh an existing technical solution or embark on a new project, you should demonstrate that the solutions underpin the business needs.
Start developing your strategy
The development of the strategy should not be the sole responsibility of the department manager or IT leader, but rather a collaboration of IT experts and stakeholders. Objectives can be aspirational but achievable and should always reference elements within the corporate strategy. Usually, an IT strategy would have no more than six strategic aims.
Gather a committee of IT champions
You might find it helpful to form a steering group with representation from different stakeholders. Together, identify the key IT strategic goals, each supported by realistic objectives. Each objective should then reference which company strategy and strategic aim it supports.
Meet at least quarterly to refine requirements, evaluate progress and offer guidance and support to the IT manager. In addition, the Jisc guide ‘How to shape your digital strategy‘ can help inform strategy development, just with different goals in mind.
Implementation and planning
Once you have identified the strategic objectives, you can develop an operational plan by collaborating with the IT technical team. This planning will involve determining each objective’s most appropriate technological solution or operational tactic. You may also need to consider an equipment refresh which should be outlined during this stage of planning.
The IT steering group can support decision making for larger-scale solutions or projects. Their involvement will ensure a broader sense of ownership, acceptance and, therefore, more straightforward implementation. Not to mention greater credibility when presented to senior management or board members.
Operational tactics and service level agreements are evaluated regularly as part of the planning cycle. It helps to use a service catalogue where each IT service references which strategic objective it supports, therefore, more likely to be approved for funding. This catalogue can also show resource requirements and any service interdependencies.
Making the case for investment
As an IT leader, you may need to refresh some aspects of the technological infrastructure, which could be above budget. Therefore, you’ll need to make a solid case to justify that your recommendations are vital.
To help you do this, a well-written business case to present to the senior management team will further increase your credibility. In addition, you should reference your IT service strategy and any related company strategies and policies that the proposed technology will reinforce. Finally, include the risks involved by not acting on your recommendations.
You may wish to go further and present a project brief that details how you plan to implement the proposed technology, outlining any resources and skills required. A brief is valuable if you have a large and complex project that needs to be separated into smaller, more manageable sub-projects.
Following these steps should result in a more structured approach to IT service management, ensuring that operational planning and expenditure are aligned with the organisation’s broader direction. Doing so will maximise the chances of success for any such investment request and enhance efficiency.