Where Is Your Planning Horizon? (Part 1)

August 19, 2009

What Is Your Planning Horizon?

What Is Your Planning Horizon?

I was going to do this in one post, simply because I envy Olivier Blanchards wordsmithing, but he puts told you so! to my post of; Talent vs Experince!

I surrender, so this will now be the first of two of them, part one the general idea, with part two being one specific example.

I have to be the first to say it, (OK I’m not the first!) it is probably an issue that you as the executive or general management of a small to medium business have complained about for years.

But have you found that too often IT staff in the SME space have somewhere between zero and short term only thinking in their planning horizon?

Simply put; if that short term only planning horizon cannot be improved, you cannot improve service and lower costs within your IT spending.

(And if you have been having doubts about your IT Leadership, just ask the question of what goals they have going on their planning horizon!)

Within the SMB space, IT staff or suppliers tend to simply plan that for that server upgrade, that new firewall, or that new software you want, and generally the planning is short term and simply trying and keep the status quo moving along.

In reality, there is no inherent problem with this short type planning horizon, – in fact someone has to be looking at it. But in your senior IT staff or IT leadership, you also have to be thinking in other time horizons.

So here is a quick look at some of the time horizons your I believe that your IT leadership should be looking at;

Short Term

As I stated above, you do need this short term planning horizon: It is the specific, immediate actions for particular results. These results can include anything from particular upgrades, resource hire (or exits!), and the myriad of IT Operations and Infrastructure planning required by your organization. Consider these the “Known-Knowns” events that will be happening in the short term to keep the status quo moving along.

Medium Term

Some expert will call me wrong in my wording here, but I consider the medium term planning horizon to be analogous to a chess game; starting the moves that allow me to get to my  long term horizon. Let me call this the “Known-Unknowns”.

I say this because you won’t (and can’t) know everything that is going to happen, We can’t be sure because there will be because something won’t work, something else may be too expensive, or the technology just changes.

So you have to be flexible and be ready to modify. We know there may be twists, turns, or dead ends, but we can visualize and plan for a framework that gets us to our vision made in the long term horizon.

Long Term

Be warned, the long term horizon will always be a moving target in IT! (see this oldie titled; learn to dance) But I consider this to be the end state of an improved service, a reduced cost, or a new proficiency.

My “knowns” does break down here because I don’t want to call it an unknown – unknown. That implies less vision than I believe is necessary, because you did know enough about the end result you were looking for. Even if you could not put it in a project plan.

Again, in Part 2, I will demonstrate this in a little more detail

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Photo Credit Not Quite a Photographr via flickr


3 Responses to “Where Is Your Planning Horizon? (Part 1)”

  1. John B Says:

    Rod Fyfe, Air NZ’s CEO (and someone I rate v. highly) said: “We don’t talk about vision or mission or that kind of thing but we do have a character in the company that we do talk about, and one of the attributes is to “be yourself”. There’s a lot to be said for being yourself, rather than create a facade”

  2. elliotross Says:


    That is excellent – I am going to mention you & that link soon.

    The Aug 10 issue of Business Week (US Version) had a good article by Management researcher & professor Henry Mintzberg that a lot of the economic issues was because senior leadership were solely focused on the ‘vision’ and ‘strategy’ while ignoring the other too.

    Mintzberg made the quote that the plumbing must be watched as well!

  3. John B Says:

    I’ve always found the “Strategic-Tactical-Operational” analogy quite useful. Goes against the grain in (inherently) pacifist Germany, though.
    Good link here: http://bit.ly/3HZFK

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