Strategic Planning Notes

Strategic Planning Notes

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Strategic Planning
• Strategy is the action that allows realization of long-term vision and goals
• Planning is a process that attempts to coordinate the deployment of resources over time
• Planning horizon is a key differentiation between strategic, tactical, and operational planning
Role of Network Services in Strategic Planning
• For some organizations, network technology will be central to the core mission
• Network equipment or services company
• Common carrier or ISP
• Organization focusing on network-based deliver of products and services
• For some organizations, network technology will be a utility service
• The number of organizations for which networking is strategic is increasing
Corporate strategic planning was popularized in the 1960s
• Outgrowth of Frederick Taylor's Scientific Management
• The goal is to find the one best strategy
• Profession of strategic planner assumes that planning can be coordinated independent of content
• Assumes that the thorough analysis of hard data leads to insights
• The planning process is highly structured
Classical strategic planning has not been as successful as originally envisioned
• It ignores the central role of vision
• It is too analytical and formalized
• The structured process often results in the exclusion of important players
• It is based on principles of statistical forecasting that are often unreliable
• It is based on "hard" data and ignores "soft" data that is difficult to quantify
• strategic planning, strategic thinking, and strategy making are not synonymous
Information Technology Planning: Is it strategic?
• IT is increasingly a key competitive differentiator
• IT touches everyone within an organization in some fashion (i.e., everyone is a stake holder)
• IT projects are often extremely complex
• IT projects require dedication of immense resources
Perspective A: Strategic IT Planning is Essential
• Need to link IT strategy to organizational strategy
• Corporate goals are increasingly tied to IT
• Inadequate consideration of IT can doom projects
• Need to make rational resource allocation decisions
• Lack of skilled staff requires establishment of planning priorities
• Rapid technology change requires inclusive approach to planning
• Need to integrate systems requires planning and coordination
Perspective B: Strategic IT Planning is largely a Waste of Time
• Strategic IT planning is a resource drain and takes too much time
• Strategic IT planning leads to lowest-common denominator solutions resulting from political compromise
• Strategic IT planning often leads to increased centralization because efficiency is often valued highly
• Strategic planning processes make it difficult to adapt to new technologies
• It is impossible to involve the most important people because they are too busy doing "essential" work
Tactical Planning
• Tactical planning deals primarily with the implementation phase of the planning process

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• Tactical planning turns strategy into reality
• Tactical planning usually has a 1-2 year time horizon
• Tactical planning is usually tightly integrated with the annual budget process
Elements of tactical planning
• Project plans and RFCs
• Project budgets
• Project reviews
• Monthly reports
• Annual reports
Project plans
• Project planning requires consideration of many issues
• Existing environment
• User needs
• Available expertise
• Alternative solutions
• Budget and time constraints
• Support issues
• Project teams are generally assembled to address these issues
Project teams and RFC's
• RFC: Request for Comments
• The RFC serves two primary functions
• It provides a framework to direct activities of the project team
• It acts as a vehicle for gathering input and providing information to stakeholders outside the project team
• Development of an RFC will likely require research and consultation with vendors (including possibly a formal request for information)
• The RFC may result in consensus decisions but it does not guarantee that outcome if the alternative implementation options are many and the preferable solution not so obvious
• Serves as a resource for an RFP
Structure of an RFC
• Executive summary
• Statement of overall goal
• Summary of existing environment
• Outline of technical issues, possibly including a technology primer
• Evaluation of tactical alternatives
• Evaluation of existing vendor offerings
• If possible (i.e., a reasonable consensus exists within the project team) a proposed course of action, including timeframe and budget
Implementation Plan
• The RFC may serve as a framework for an implementation plan
• More detailed implementation planning is often required
• Use of project management software is desireable
• Use of regularized reporting via electronic and face-to-face meetings is usually required
• For information updates, electronic updates are most efficient; when issues need to be resolved, a meeting is usually more effective
Annual Reports
• An annual report plays an important role in tactical planning
• Provides a summary of the mission and goals of the organization
• Reviews accomplishments based on project goals outlined in previous year's report
• Proposes changes in project direction or organization
• Outlines project goals for the coming year
• Should be keyed into the annual capital and operating budget plans
Monthly reports
• Help project managers to organize tasks and monitor progress
• Should be part of the normal work process and not busy work
• Each project should be given a project number
• Monthly summary should include overview of work accomplished in previous month
• Monthly summary should note any slippage in implementation target date
• Monthly summary should note any outstanding issues that require management attention
Operational Planning
• Deals with the day-to-day and week-to-week work routine
• Focus is on routine operational tasks and long-term projects
• Primary goal is to communicate
• In many organizations, people are asked to do both
• Weekly meetings are often used to coordinate efforts and review progress
• Weekly or monthly summaries are often used to inform others
• The structure of operational planning is closely related to organizational structure
• In a traditional hierarchical organization (i.e., UNIX team, network engineering team), team leaders usually assemble with a senior manager on a regular basis to share information
• Additional periodic meetings are often required to coordinate efforts with other units (i.e., the systems group should meet with the user services group on a regular basis)
• In a process-oriented organization, teams are more ad-hoc in nature, so a mechanism must be put in place to insure communication
Electronic versus face-to-face "meetings"
• Both means of communication should be used
• Sometimes, there is no substitute for face-to-face interaction
• The worst face-to-face meetings are those where everyone simply makes announcements and disseminates information (that can be accomplished more effectively electronically)
• Periodic summaries should be distributed outside the team
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