Hurry up and Change – A New Approach to IT Strategic Planning

Michael O’Connor, Risk & Business Advisory Manager
December 2018

The financial services industry is in the midst of significant change:

  • new entrants are taking market share from traditional banks in pieces of the value chain like payments and consumer lending;
  • there are evolving customer expectations and new competitors provide a better customer experience to meet those expectations;
  • new technologies that can help transform organizations to digitally-enabled industry leaders are pervasive and economically feasible; and
  • changing regulatory requirements have put financial services institutions at a disadvantage relative to new industry entrants.

While some of these changes have been highly innovative and have disrupted existing business models, there have also been more subtle changes that have also required changes in strategic plans and road maps. The reality in 2018 is that the typical 3-5 year strategic plan and technology strategic plan and road map need to be living and breathing documents that are reviewed and acted upon every 6-12 months and supported by a product management discipline.

Product Management

In order to ensure ongoing linkage between the strategic plan and what is being delivered to the business, a technology product management function should be put in place. Just like a software or hardware vendor has product managers who help drive product strategy and delivery road maps, a product manager in a technology organization within a financial services institution spans business and IT and leads a cross-functional team to define the road map for their product area. The technology product manager is almost literally a living and breathing strategic plan, as they are constantly adjusting to competitive threats, enhanced customer expectations, new technologies, and changing regulatory expectations.

Beyond the obvious key attributes for this role, such as technology and business knowledge, and the ability to communicate, the key to success in this function is to determine metrics that are relevant for the technology product manager, since a traditional profit and loss view used in a software company does not typically apply in the IT model. There are a couple of options depending on the product; if it is used by customers and end users, then there will be trackable metrics such as new users and increased volumes. If the product is an internal service used by developers, you can track usage very easily to measure performance. These metrics help the technology product manager and executive management team assess whether the initiatives in the road maps are helping the organization achieve its goals and objectives.

Technology Strategic Plan and Road Map

With a technology product management discipline in place, an enhanced technology strategic plan and road map can begin to take shape. The major areas of the IT organization should be broken out as a part of the plan:

  • Applications
  • Infrastructure
  • Information Security
  • Maintenance and Support
  • Development Processes
  • Portfolio/Program/Project Management

A target state and road map exercise should be undertaken for each of these areas, in alignment with the major tenets laid out in the organization’s over-arching corporate strategic plan.

A good example to consider is the application target state and road map. From a strategic perspective, is the organization in growth mode? Organically or through acquisition? Is innovation important? Once these and other questions are answered, the application portfolio (or a subset of critical applications) can be assessed using the following criteria:

  • Will we invest in this application?
  • Does this application support our plan?
  • Will we maintain this application?
  • Will we retire this application?

These answers will drive a road map that will depict the sequencing of projects to enhance, maintain, and replace applications over a specific time horizon.

This process should also be completed for the other areas above, and aligned with the annual budget cycle to ensure proper funding for these initiatives. Further, at least every six months, the technology product managers are either reporting on progress or evaluating and re-shifting their portfolios.

Summary

While we all prioritize and execute on the operational aspects of our roles, the inability to focus on strategic planning and ongoing road map management can hinder the overall performance of our teams and organizations as a whole. And in an industry where so many strategic issues are in flight and changing rapidly, there has never been a time when there needs to be such constant vigilance in overseeing the IT strategic plan. By embedding strategic roles in the IT organization and reviewing progress against goals and objectives at least every six months, you maximize your probability of delivering the highest value for your IT budget dollar.

If you would like to discuss these matters further, contact Michael O’Connor or your BNN advisor at 800.244.7444.

Disclaimer of Liability: This publication is intended to provide general information to our clients and friends. It does not constitute accounting, tax, or legal advice; nor is it intended to convey a thorough treatment of the subject matter.