A Quality Advisor White Paper by Richard E. Biehl.
Copyright 1995-1998, Data-Oriented Quality Solutions. All rights reserved.

Generic Strategic Profile for
Information Technology

This Generic Strategic Profile for Information Technology is a tool to be used to support expanded strategic thinking throughout the I/S organization. It contains a description of the major core competencies that I/S must master to be a world-class information technology organization in the future. This white paper is of value to the extent that it triggers thought and discussion throughout the organization. Its benefits will most likely be greatest to those who disagree, or would challenge, the many descriptive statements included throughout.

Core Competencies

This Strategic Profile is built around the five core competencies that comprise the strategic critical success factors for I/S. Notably, none of the core competencies involves the building, installation, or operation of any specific information system or information technology. The actual business applications - whether purchased or built - are a by-product of the continuous improvement and practice of these five core competencies:

Managing I/S Portfolio

The information services portfolio is the aggregate collection of information technology services offered to customers within and beyond the company. Application systems and hardware technology are means to delivering these services. The ability to deliver a state-of-the-art portfolio, that continuously meets or exceeds the requirements of the business, is the primary core competency of I/S. Regardless of where business systems come from, whether through internal development, purchase acquisition, or end-user self-support, the portfolio needs to be managed as an aggregate product set within the business.

  • Ownership and Stewardship - We understand who in the business is responsible for each business process, the associated data, and the application systems within the portfolio.

  • Distribution and Redundancy - We build and distribute business applications in accordance with a sound technology architecture. Our application deployment process balances technology availability, sharing, performance, and business risk.

  • Integrity and Reliability - We maximize the integrity and reliability of the portfolio within reasonable limitations of organizational risk.

  • Access and Authorization - We assure that the portfolio is secure from invalid entry and that individuals with access perform only authorized activities.

  • Definition and Documentation - We ensure that business applications in the portfolio can be used and supported appropriately. We ensure that each business process, application, and all data elements are well defined and documented to allow the elements to be supported without relying on a particular person or team for the information.

  • Managing Processes & Projects

    I/S achieves its desired ends through the execution of project activity against a sound and ever-improving process model. A core competency of I/S is to be able to put together the human and technical resources needed, along with a sound and effective process management capability, to accomplish work against the information services portfolio. This ability is independent of what technologies are used, where human resources are acquired, or what particular user application is being worked on.

  • Project Planning - We organize work and resources into manageable projects and reach consensus on commitments with our business leaders through use of formal project charters and project plans.

  • Project Tracking and Oversight - We continuously monitor work against plan in order to establish adequate visibility to variances so that effective action and replanning can take place in a timely manner.

  • Subcontract Management - We proactively manage the relationships to all project players through agreement on deliverables, resources, and discretion in the project plan.

  • Quality Assurance - We ensure appropriate user and technical participation in all project processes and products in order to maximize customer visibility and minimize failures and risks.

  • Configuration Management - We control the integrity of all portfolio components throughout the project life cycle.

  • Managing Customer Relationships

    The effectiveness of the I/S portfolio can only be assessed by the customer. The ability to work with the customer - to understand, communicate, meet, and exceed their requirements - is a critical competency of I/S. The customer must be the focus of all improvement activity against the portfolio. Technical elegance is not the goal. Meeting all reasonable user expectations is the goal, and the ability to think and act in these terms is one of I/Sís critical success factors.

  • Sponsorship/Leadership - We work with our customers to identify functional, site, business, and executive leaders to serve as sponsors for I/S initiatives.

  • Understanding Customer Businesses - We obtain sufficient knowledge of the customerís business (manufacturing and service processes, market influences, financial drivers, etc.) to assure development of an information systems portfolio that meets the business goals.

  • Requirements Management - We map customer requirements to system portfolio components in order to initiate the value added projects that meet business objectives

  • Expectation Management - We set accurate, realistic, time and resource estimates for every I/S project that take into account customer needs and expectations. Changes to scope and authorization for same, must be communicated to/from a project steering committee. The business unit must establish and commit to defined and measurable business benefits for each project.

  • Delivery Management - Deliver information systems as specified up front in the project plan and communicate to the business any discrepancies.

  • Managing Human Resources

    The ability to accomplish any of the above is dependent on I/Sís ability to gain access to the best human resources available. Through effective hiring models, and significant partnership relationships with a few specialized vendors, I/S needs to be able to quickly and effectively empower and support dynamic teams with flexible skill sets.

  • Recruiting and Selection - I/S maintains a good working environment to attract and retain staff of the highest caliber. Recruiting is a major responsibility of I/S.

  • Performance Management - We ensure that teams have to the proper resources and tools to execute the required actions.

  • Training and Career Development - We ensure that all staff have the necessary training to fulfill assigned project responsibilities and that follow-on career needs are considered in all development plans.

  • Organization and Work Design - Teams are organized for maximum achievement of desired results and appropriate technologies are provided so as to enable effective and desired work patterns.

  • Managing IT Research & Development

    While technical elegance is not a goal, effective use of technology in support of the business is a goal. A critical success factor for I/S is to be able to proactively anticipate changes to technology that will have an impact on the I/S portfolio, the customer, and I/S human resources, in order to effectively plan and facilitate migration to maturing technologies. It is critical that I/S not have to react to late-breaking technological trends and fads, but that it can plan effective migration strategies in support of extended or deeper business need.

  • Opportunity Identification - We identify information systems trends that potentially add value to and/or enable business processes.

  • Knowledge Capture - We continuously assess information available within the industry for possible applicability to the business and I/S portfolio.

  • Pilot Management - We try out new technologies and processes when the business believes that potential benefits may be received by adoption.

  • Institutionalize Knowledge - We convert successful pilot results into policies, standards, and procedures for deployment throughout the organization.


  • Strategic Processes

  • Market Information Services
  • Maintain Staff Skill Base
  • Process Customer Communications
  • Review Application Portfolio
  • Develop New Application Components
  • Acquire New Application Components
  • Implement New Application Components
  • Schedule Service Levels
  • Implement Infrastructure
  • Provide Operating Services
  • Monitor Service Levels
  • Revise Existing Application Components
  • Acquire Revised Application Components
  • Implement Revised Application Components
  • Customize Service Offerings
  • Participate in Company Planning
  • Revise Processes & Materials

    Postscript

    The purpose of the Generic Strategic Profile for Information Technology is to begin at a very high level, the I/S Mission Statement, and develop a framework of what needs to be in place to support that mission statement. The starting point of any business is its enterprise mission statement. Everything the company does should support that statement.

    To support the mission statement, each functional group within the company should have their own, more focused mission statement. In support of each functional areasí mission statement, each functional area has a set of core competencies that in turn support their mission statement.

    The most visible core competency that gets the majority of the attention is Managing the Information Systems Portfolio. This core competency drives why the organization exists. Often forgotten are the remaining four core competencies that act as the building blocks for achieving organizational goals and supporting the I/S portfolio.