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Developing IT strategy for uncertain times: how scenario planning can help

How can business leaders succeed in uncertain times? [1vJZDISDH-U]
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Organisations are faced with an uncertain future. A global economic crisis that is still not fully resolved and rapid technological advances present both opportunities and risks, as do highly dynamic and complex global markets.

Developing an effective and resilient IT strategy requires IT organisations to balance the need to manage uncertainty against the resources available and the organisation’s ability to cope.

Strategic planning must take account of factors such as rapid changes in technology and management methods, openness and transparency policies, new market adoption dynamics, competitor plans, and the optimal shape and size of the IT organisation. Despite this, many IT organisations develop strategy in isolation from the wider business, leaving uncertainty and doubt as to whether the IT strategy is the right one or whether it could be improved.

Techniques such as scenario planning can help IT organisations undertake strategic planning in a way that delivers an IT strategy that is fit for the future, whatever this might hold.

Our ‘Managing Uncertainty’ survey shows that organisations that regularly use scenario planning as a part of their strategic planning perform demonstrably better on indicators such as Total Shareholder Return.

Rather than just reacting to a corporate strategy produced by others, IT should engage with the wider organisation to identify scenarios that can be used as ‘lenses’ through which to focus the IT strategy, build resilience to uncertainty and improve risk management.

A leading role for IT

Not all organisations will routinely include the IT organisation in their strategic-planning activities. However, by taking a leading role in engaging the business in a foresight process using scenario planning the CIO can enhance both the value and perception of IT within the organisation, moving it away from being perceived as a utilitarian and reactive function to one that is helping to shape the future direction of the business.

Scenario planning and the shared journey

Much of the value of scenario planning lies in participating in a shared process, working alongside colleagues from other parts of the business to explore uncertainty and expose and challenge assumptions. This can lead to much better alignment between IT and the business, and allow those outside the IT organisation to gain a better understanding of how technology can be used to deliver competitive advantage and innovation.

Scenario planning for short-term opportunities

People often think of scenarios as a technique for longer-term strategic planning but the process of creating scenarios can often shine a light on important decisions that need to be taken now. As well as allowing organisations to think about the future in a more thorough and structured  manner, scenario planning also highlights key issues that need to be addressed in the short term.

A context for innovation

Using scenario planning to think about a range of possible futures rather than a single future can be a valuable catalyst for innovation.

Exploring uncertainty and building scenarios is a creative process. Building rich scenarios, exploring their implications and really trying to understand how it would feel to live in them creates a fertile ground for imagining how technology can be used to address important challenges and create new products and services.

To find out how PA can help your organisation use scenario planning to create a resilient IT strategy, pleasecontact us now.

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