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Is your company getting ready for your IT initiatives in 2014?

It’s now the final quarter of 2012, and our IT project portfolio planning for next year’s infrastructure services is wrapping up.  We had a successful planning cycle overall this year, so I wanted to share how annual preparation for IT technology investment can have an effective start.

The first three months should provide the foundation.  Use this time to discover and document the technology trends that are relevant to your company.   Several sources of reference are available this time of year, such as Gartner, Forrester, and McKinsey.  Summarize the following for each trend:  a general description, market evaluation, and vendors for consideration.  Be sure to also include the reason why each trend is important to your company.  Traceability is imperative throughout the planning cycle, so start this phase properly by citing each trend’s source for later reference.

Capture all of these technology trends into a central source for the general reference of IT.  As a navigation aid, categorize these technology trends into vertical domains (e.g. Datacenter, Network, Storage, Systems, Database, Client) and horizontal domains (e.g. Security, Virtualization, Collaboration, Monitoring).  Once the central document is complete, be sure to distribute, communicate, and advertise its existence.  It should be one of the required readings for the traceability of the second phase.

After the first three months, additional sources of internal reference should be available in your company, including new internal customer requirements, forecasts on existing internal demand, business and technology strategies [example here], as well as service technology reviews [example here].  These sources are out of the scope of my blog entry, but are necessary information to reference in the second phase of the planning cycle. 

During the second three months, create your technology roadmaps.  Here’s a general guide: 

  1. For each technology domain, start with a document that includes 6 columns.
  2. List each service or target for the respective domain along the far left column.  Each service or target should reside in a separate horizontal row.
  3. For each service or target, list all relevant trends, new requirements, existing demands, and/or strategies in the far right column in the respective row.
  4. Each of the middle four columns represents a year, starting with the current year.
  5. In the column for the current year, plot each concept, activity, or project that is currently in process for the respective service or target
  6. Now use this framework to plot future concepts, activities, or projects that are required to evolve a service or target toward a trend, demand, or strategy.
  7. Include a reference for any termination of services.

Overall, each roadmap should provide a complete picture of your technology services over the next three years.  I recommend linking the objects on your roadmaps to their respective service catalog entries and planning document excerpts.  This linkage can be a simple URL reference or numerical index, but it provides the all-important traceability for your planning cycle.  Require a high-level project charter for each project that will initiate in or continue into the upcoming year.  This project charter can be captured in an online utility or a document, but be sure to link it to the roadmap using a simple URL or numerical index.  For this phase, a high level project charter should only include a few requirements:  a general description, annual CapEx, annual OpEx, annual person days overall, and a brief objective questionnaire for strategic assessment.  When consolidated into a high-level project portfolio, these project charters can provide a baseline of the investments and resources that may be required for the upcoming year, as well as a foundation for portfolio valuation and decision analysis.

As the roadmaps come together, you will notice that some departments in IT are pursuing similar objectives.  Make time in this cycle to discover and clearly categorize these interdependencies.  Devote a separate section for these categories, and use the index numbers to trace back to their respective roadmaps.  Changes will occur frequently until the final draft is agreed upon, so I would also recommend another section to capture change control.  Once the roadmaps are complete, consolidate them into a central document and distribute, communicate, and advertise its existence.  In parallel, make each domain roadmap available to the respective content owners so it can be maintained throughout the year as necessary.

I have seen three clear benefits to the preparation phases explained above.  First, each deliverable provides a source for traceability, which can be measured.  Metrics include:  trend to source of reference, roadmap service or target to trend, roadmap activity to project charter, interdependencies to consolidated project charter, and trend to CapEx/OpEx/person day.  Overall, these metrics can be used to quantify the success of your planning efforts.  Another benefit is that the planning document and roadmaps begin to align the products and landscapes of IT toward service orientation.  Most importantly, the planning phases are a great opportunity to provide transparency with your colleagues in separate domains.  Investment into IT depends upon interoperable services, so technology planning should not occur in isolation.  Be sure invite your subject matter experts to research, contribute, and collaborate along the way.

IT planning requires foresight and consensus, so I hope the two phases explained above can be your guide to overcome some of the initial challenges involving alignment and uncertainty.  I welcome our colleagues and customers of SAP to share their experience here.