Successful achievement of your IT strategy depends on frequent communication throughout the planning and execution, and that communication needs to be tailored to a variety of audiences.
Communication Wraps Around the Entire Strategy Management Process
Our previous eight articles described the IT Strategy Management process, demonstrating the marriage of Strategy and Execution. Each step either developed the strategic plan or set us up for successful execution of the plan.
The final piece of our process is Communication. Unlike the other steps, Communication is wrapped around the entire process, from beginning to end.
Why Communication is Key
When IT successfully executes its strategy, we earn trust, credibility, and respect that enables us to play a bigger role for the company. But nobody notices successful execution without a healthy amount of communication.
Whether it’s the CIO sharing strategic objectives and goals to align the entire IT organization, or an IT leader discussing performance objectives with a team member, or the CIO reporting results to the Board, clear, consistent communication puts the strategy in motion and keeps everyone informed of progress.
Without good communication, team members may go down an unexpected path, business leaders will draw their own conclusions about IT performance, and the Board will never understand the value IT is contributing to the business.
We assign a Communication Manager at the outset of our IT Strategy Management effort. This may be a member of the IT team or someone from Corporate Communications, Marketing, or any other department. You may even consider a contractor with the right skills and experience to support your strategic plan.
The Communication Manager conveys information about the development and execution of the IT Strategic Plan to a broad range of audiences, including:
- The IT team
- Business leaders
- The entire company
- The Board of Directors
- and more.
The style and substance of communications vary depending on the audience. Each member of the IT team will understand the objectives, goals, action plans, individual performance plans, and status of his or her own projects and projects with interdependencies.
The Board, quite contrarily, will understand objectives, goals, and overall status, and should rarely, if ever, be subjected to the details.
The Communication Manager must be able to write in a variety of voices, from informal to very formal, must be skilled in choosing the right medium for any given communication, and must be very organized and disciplined to adhere to a structured communication plan.
The CIO, IT Leadership Team, and the Communication Manager will meet at the very beginning of the IT Strategy Management process to define a communication plan to be executed throughout the year, from strategic planning through execution. The plan will include a schedule of what needs to be communicated, to whom, and through what medium. Any given message may be delivered to various audiences, but in a style and voice tailored to each audience.
The plan will include meeting dates to develop the strategy, explanation of objectives, goals and action plans, and status updates throughout the execution of the strategy.
Clearly, not all of these communications should be written. The CIO may gather all of IT to explain the strategy, along with slides and, perhaps, handouts. Weekly and monthly status reports may be in written narrative to the business leaders and the CIO may present slides to the Board each quarter.
We may have posters to socialize major initiatives across the company. There may be brief summaries in an IT or corporate newsletter. There may even be outside speaking engagements for the CIO to discuss the results of a transformational project and generate goodwill for the business.
The key is to keep all stakeholders informed with an appropriate level of detail.
Good communication will help to align the IT organization around the strategy and keep business stakeholders informed of goals and progress. When people across the business, including executive leadership and the Board, see what IT is achieving for the business, IT earns trust, credibility, and respect.
Few people will recognize the value of IT without good communication. But, with effective communication, the value that IT delivers will be noticeably clear. And that’s when IT moves to the pinnacle of the IT Value Journey and earns a transformational role in the business.
As always, if you want to know more, or just can’t wait for the next articles, email Emily at Emily@WolffStrategy.com and she’ll be happy to schedule a call with me.
Larry Wolff is the founder & CEO of Wolff Strategy Partners, a boutique consulting firm specializing in Enterprise Strategy Management and Digital Transformation. Larry has served as CEO, COO, CIO, chief digital officer, and management consultant for public, private, international and emerging growth companies. His specialties include corporate and IT strategic planning, technology led business transformation, business and IT turnarounds, merger integration and large-scale project rescues.