CIOs live for strategy, but ask them how to implement a strategic business plan and you may get a lot of blank stares. That’s because not all CIOs know how to handle strategic planning–yet. Jim Anderson, in his blog The Accidental Successful CIO, lays out a basic starting foundation for those CIOs who dream of drafting a strategic plan, but who need a few pointers before they get started.
Hard and Soft Trends
There are two basic things to consider when formulating a strategic plan. First off, there are hard trends, and then there are soft trends. Hard trends are completely out of one’s control. For instance, Anderson cites government regulations, technology, and changes in demographics as trends that could all be defined as hard. These will inevitably affect the state of your company and should be integrated into your plan first. If most business players see the same basic shift in technology, that’s something to focus on. What is the next generation of customers going to look like? What regulations in the works should be considered even before they impact the business?
In contrast to hard trends, soft trends can be changed. For instance, the mass adoption of smartphones was a hard trend, yet the outcome of smartphone users playing games on their phones, a soft trend. Once the CIO identifies the soft trend, they can help their company take advantage it.
Warnings of Wisdom
Anderson warns CIOs not to mistake soft trends for hard trends. Remember that soft trends are not fated to happen! They can be changed at a moment’s notice. Furthermore, strategic plans (whether hard or soft) are not static. They live in the interactions of employees, in their everyday tasks and schedules of the organization. Hard trends take priority over soft trends every time, because hard trends are fated to happen and will impact the state of the business.
Now that you know a bit more about how to design a strategic plan, you’ll be able to nod excitedly at the mention of heading one for the business.
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