Where Is Your Planning Horizon? (Part 2)

October 7, 2009

In part 1 of this post, I outlined how ‘C’ level executives and managers in the small to medium enterprise need to ensure that their senior IT leaders (internal or outsourced) are considering long and medium term planning horizons, not just short term planning, which is the specific, immediate actions required for particular results.

Often longer term planning can be difficult, because it will always be a moving target. (I have changed my own long term planning goals twice in the last 18 months or so) Despite being a moving target, get away from the what if.. or you will never get any planning goals off the ground.

Your IT planning has to balance the long term of where you want to be vs. the day by day steps that get you to that goal.

One Without The Other?

Does not work!

With no long term planning, short and medium term planning has no goal. No end game. No target that you are trying to aim for. And with only long term planning, you get stuck vague ideals about a perfect future – but with no immediate deliverables to begin setting you on that road. (like the old saying; if you do not know where you are going, any road will get you there)

And yes! your long term plans will probably change, be aware of it, and adjust as necessary.

In part 1 I promised to give a real world example, so here it is!

After joining my organization n the fall of 2007, I realized that our IT cost structure was way out of whack.

So easily enough my long term plan was to reduce our IT cost by at least 50%

The short term and medium term plans to get to that goal included multiple tasks, some of these were relatively easy to implement, and others that were more difficult. Examples include;

* Improving purchase approvals,processes and supplier agreements

* Improving IT costing

* Consolidating four database servers down to one

* Consolidating five application servers down to three

* Improving budget and trend analysis

You get the idea!

Some of these tasks took a lot of planning and time (eg, you can’t just pick up and move a database from one server to another – trust me on that – applications will break, software code needs to modified, etc etc)

In the interest of full disclosure, I cannot take credit for all cost reductions we achieved as our B2B customer base started feeling the pain of our current economic meltdown long before the press started talking about the recession word. When they closed their wallets, many growth and spending plans had to be shelved.

The Long Term Planning Change

OK, so my first long term plan was cutting IT costs. By middle to late 2008, the market that we call SaaS, (Software as a service)and  PaaS (platform as a service) had begun to mature.

For me? maintaining database servers and application servers are not our core competency.So my long term planning has evolved into identifying if we can successfully leverage those technologies.

The SMB Takeaway

Yes, the future is unknown, and unknowable. But that is not excuse to avoid planning for where you believe you need to be. You may modify, you may tweak, you may adjust.

In fact you may rip out and replace the whole plan.

Do it anyway!

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Photo credit coincoyote via flickr


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