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IT strategic planning: How to develop + implement your strategy

IT strategic planning aligns leadership with IT staff to meet business goals. Follow our guide and learn how to make the best plan for your organization.

Apr 04, 2024 • 8 Minute Read

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As any business leader will tell you, changing your strategy takes more than a few meetings and signatures. That’s especially true when it comes to IT strategic planning. Transforming your IT strategy to meet business outcomes can cut costs and earn a massive return on investment—but it also requires careful consideration. 

Whether you’re a manager, IT department head, or VP, knowing where to start when building an IT strategic plan is only your first hurdle. To help you along, we’ll break down the process of honing and implementing an IT plan. Then, by explaining its components, risks, and best practices, you’ll find yourself ready to align IT with your most important business goals.

What is IT strategic planning?

Illustration defining IT strategic planning beside icons of a computer window, lock, and magnifying glass

IT strategic planning entails developing a strategy that uses IT resources to meet business goals. The plan outlines the technology and funds needed to meet these objectives. By outlining priorities and the steps required to achieve them, business leaders and IT staff collaborate for the best return on investment. 

Your IT strategic plan functions as a guide to IT decision-making. Organizations can cut costs and promote growth by aligning IT with business strategies and goals

An IT strategic plan outlines:

  • Your long-term and short-term objectives

  • The benchmarks measuring your success

  • The resources needed to meet your goals

  • Which tech investments you need and why they’re important

Why is IT planning important?

Strategic planning for IT helps businesses stay competitive in a changing environment. As years pass, new tech innovations give early adopters an edge over the competition. On the other hand, poorly managed technology investments can set an organization back. IT planning ensures businesses use the best tools to stay ahead. 

Jason Edleman, a former IT Business Relationship Management Partner at Forest City Realty Trust, views the IT current state as where your organization is today, while the IT future state is where you see your organization in the future and the roadmap of how to get there. So, IT strategic planning bridges the gap between where your organization is and where you want it to go.

An effective IT strategic plan has the ability to: 

  • Cut operating costs and unnecessary expenses in your IT budget

  • Improve communication between teams and leadership

  • Quickly respond to market changes and shifting demand

  • Align your tech with attainable business goals

  • Highlight deliverables with the highest value

  • Prioritize security and risk prevention 

Components of IT strategies

Illustration depicting the components of IT strategies

Business leaders and staff base an IT strategic plan on their technology’s relationship to desired outcomes. It takes careful analysis of your business performance. Your organization’s opportunities, risks, strengths, and weaknesses will also shape the plan. You can identify the resources and barriers at play by weighing the goals you’re currently working toward against the ones you aren’t ready to prioritize.

More specifically, the components of an IT strategic plan include: 

  • Technology roadmap: a list of tech investments, their requirements, and the result of their implementation relative to business goals

  • Transition support: the training, communications, and infrastructure needed to help your staff work toward new goals

  • IT inventory: your current IT capabilities and resources

  • IT governance: corporate compliance standards that ensure optimal performance and security

  • Key performance indicators: the metrics used to gauge the success of your plan and your ability to follow it

  • Timeline: the measure of time needed to implement your strategy and release new products or features

  • Workflows for all roles: outlines on who will assist with your strategy and what they’re responsible for

  • Objectives and deliverables: the product you want to build, focusing on products that meet your wider goals

How to create an IT strategic plan: 5 key steps

Managing an IT strategy may look daunting from the outside. However, you can form your IT strategy in only five steps:

1. Analyze current processes

Before implementing changes, you need to look at the status quo. First, figure out your organization’s current IT position compared to competitors. From there, go through a SWOT analysis and needs assessment to see how your tech infrastructure performs. Remember that you’re not looking to pat yourself on the back—you want to find areas of improvement.

After gauging where you are, decide what needs to improve and how. When pinpointing your priorities, don’t just list facts. Instead, tell a story about how your IT plans will improve outcomes. This approach to overcoming inefficiencies beats dry presentations to business leaders.

When looking for inefficiencies, gather as much input as you can from:

  • Customer focus groups

  • Employee surveys

  • Stakeholder feedback

2. Secure stakeholder buy-in

After taking stock of your business, consult stakeholders about any changes. Explain to them where your organization currently stands and how it needs to change. Your IT strategy should ensure a smooth transition as you change your tech and processes. Remember: The more precise your benchmark for success, the better. 

Before stakeholders approve, ask them for their input. Take their feedback when possible, and explain the trade-offs of one goal over another. By working through your options and their cost, you can come to a collective decision. You can break this process down into a couple of key questions:

  1. What business outcomes do we want from our IT strategic plan?

  2. How much are we willing to spend on them?

3. Assign roles and objectives

After stakeholders agree on goals, you can list specific steps to help you reach them. Of course, that means assigning the right tasks to leadership and IT staff. You can create training resources and timelines to keep employees on track. Additionally, you should define your deliverables and outcomes as they relate to your overarching goals. 

Note any team dependencies, security risks, and possible obstacles during this process. You’ll also have to weigh short-term goals against long-term ones. Include the following in your plan:

  • Engineering KPIs
  • Strategic objectives
  • Your current and desired IT capabilities
  • IT governance and staff information
  • Security considerations
  • Your vision and mission statement
  • Timelines and release dates

4. Execute the plan

With your prep out of the way, it’s time to implement your plan. After executing your new strategy, communicate with stakeholders as the results shake out. You’ll also want to stay on top of the teams involved to ensure the process goes according to plan. If things veer off course, you'll want to jump in sooner rather than later. 

5. Review and iterate

Strategic planning solutions thrive with iterations over time. When you reach your short-term goals, take stock of the plan’s success and proceed with your long-term objectives if you see the desired results. On the other hand, if you fall short of projections, revise the plan to circumvent any issues you see.

As Jason Edelman puts it:

IT strategy template

If you want to get started with strategic planning for IT, we can help. Download our free PDF template for an easy-to-use framework that accommodates strategic IT planning at any phase. We've also created a Google Sheet version below. 

IT strategic plan examples and use cases

A list of use cases for strategic IT planning

IT strategic plans suit different types of initiatives and business transformations. Thanks to this broad appeal, they come with several use cases. Some of the most common ones include:

Innovation and identification

Identifying chances to innovate helps organizations grow and thrive. Digital innovation can cut costs and build cutting-edge solutions when IT drives your operations. Stakeholder collaboration and quantitative analysis can also point out pain points and opportunities for growth. These may include:

  • Creating new tools, platforms, and digital processes
  • Discovering automation opportunities
  • Moving analog processes to a digital space
  • Finding new opportunities for IoT connectivity

IT strategy example: A software team aiming to optimize operations might identify bottlenecks such as extensive testing before deployment. This insight prompts leaders to implement AI-assisted software development solutions like automated testing to streamline operations.

Assessing an IT portfolio

Your IT portfolio records past projects, highlighting your processes, dependencies, and risk assessments. IT strategic planning gives a framework for reviewing this portfolio. By studying past projects, IT staff and business leaders can:

  • Point out avoidable expenses
  • Identify projects with the best return on investment
  • Incorporate data from past initiatives into upcoming ones

IT strategy example: After reviewing their IT portfolio, technical leaders identify that a certain software project incurred significant expenses due to scope creep. The team realizes that better project scoping could have prevented these costs. They decide to implement a more extensive sprint planning process to outline clear priorities for the upcoming sprint and identify potential bottlenecks. 

Digital optimization and transformation

IT strategic planning can optimize your processes and move your business to the next growth stage. The IT planning process outlines your business goals and provides a path to reach them. By coordinating leadership and IT staff around the big picture, they can work together to:

  • Identify cost-cutting opportunities
  • Think through business outcomes related to tech investments 
  • Plan around different scenarios that may affect the business in unique ways
  • Create actionable steps toward desired business outcomes

IT strategy example: A retail company sees a chance to improve customer experience with a mobile app. After market analysis, their DevOps team creates a user-friendly app for browsing, purchasing, and order tracking. This aligns with their goal of boosting engagement and sales online.

Cloud migration

A comprehensive IT strategic plan helps organizations migrate data to the cloud. Cloud migration helps businesses keep up with changing needs and new technology. It can also help organizations reduce infrastructure costs and cut the need for maintenance and support. Leadership and IT staff can work together to:

  • Find the best cloud solutions for their needs

  • Create steps for migrating to the cloud

  • Rethink core processes to make the most of their cloud strategy

IT strategy example: A mid-size manufacturing firm decides to migrate its data and applications to the cloud to reduce infrastructure costs. They opt for a hybrid cloud solution that combines the flexibility of public cloud services with the security of a private cloud environment for sensitive data.

The IT team develops a migration plan that prioritizes critical systems while minimizing disruption to ongoing operations.

IT risk management

Security risk management can make or break an organization. Thankfully, strategic IT plans often point out security risks. They also help bulk up an organization’s cybersecurity and mitigate security issues in advance. Working risk management into IT strategic planning can:

  • Proactively guard critical assets and data
  • Meet security compliance standards
  • Maintain trust with stakeholders and customers

IT strategy example: A financial institution recognizes the growing threat of cyberattacks in the industry. As part of their IT strategic planning, the dev team conducts a comprehensive risk assessment to identify potential vulnerabilities in their systems and processes.

Based on the findings, they invest in upgrading their cybersecurity infrastructure, implementing multi-factor authentication, and conducting regular security audits to proactively mitigate risks and ensure compliance with industry regulations.

Best practices for strategic planning

To implement the best IT strategic plan, follow these best practices: 

  • Remember the big picture: Don’t focus too much on the specifics when building your strategy. Instead, create a larger framework for decision-making. This broad approach will suit many specific situations. 

  • Lean into iteration: Writing an IT strategy isn’t a one-and-done process. Make room for updates and adaptations to changing conditions. This agility will help your plan reach long-term goals instead of burning out early. 

  • Don’t restrict your strategy: Your plan isn’t only for senior management and IT staff. If other employees and departments can help, factor them into your plan. 

  • Stay proactive: Don’t wait until your plan runs into an issue before making changes. Anticipate upcoming threats and deviate from your plan to avoid them. A purely reactive strategy will face more of an uphill battle.

Common IT strategic planning risks to avoid

Illustration of IT strategic planning risks to avoid

While IT planning can help a business flourish, it’s not exactly guaranteed. IT strategies take careful planning and execution for the best results. With that in mind, avoid these common issues that can jeopardize IT plans:

  • Poor communication: Strategic planning involves collaboration between business and IT leaders. Misalignment on goals or deliverables can set a plan up to fail before it starts. 

  • Inflexibility: Your plan’s first draft usually won’t resemble its last. IT strategic plans should make room for changes and improvements. You can hone your strategy over time by focusing on your goals, not the path to them. 

  • Inability to deliver: All too often, IT plans outline goals a business can’t achieve with its current resources. Alternatively, they don’t outline realistic steps to achieve their goals. When making a strategy, set realistic outcomes. Over-promising and under-delivering value is a worst-case scenario.

Platforms like Skills help teams approach risk management. By identifying skill gaps in the way of your IT shift, you can train employees to meet new standards. Supporting your staff with proper training is one of the best ways to anticipate and avoid IT strategic planning risks.


Still have questions about information technology strategic plans? We answer some of the most common questions below.

What don’t strategic IT plans cover?

IT strategic planning outlines business priorities and steps to achieve them. While this sounds broad, it doesn’t cover:

  • The methods used to develop strategies in the first place

  • A list of desired technologies and financial outcomes without context

  • Rigid long-term approaches you can’t deviate from

  • Goals you cannot currently achieve or have a low chance of achieving

What is the difference between IT strategic planning and IT strategies?

IT strategies and IT strategic planning overlap to form your strategy and its implementation. 

  • IT strategies help organizations use their IT department to drive business success. 

  • IT strategic planning creates a framework or roadmap to your goals. 

While you can implement an IT strategy without strategic planning, the planning phase helps ensure a smooth implementation.

How can IT and business strategies align?

IT strategies fall under the umbrella of your broader business strategy. After all, IT and business goals aren't mutually exclusive. To make sure they align, follow these tips:

  • Work wider business goals into your IT strategy objectives

  • Create an IT plan that drives growth and offers value

  • Look ahead to future plans and create IT strategies that complement them

  • Involve your organization’s leadership when making IT plans

Are IT strategic frameworks and models the same?

While you might hear the terms strategic models and frameworks interchangeably, they aren't the same. Instead, the two terms make up parts of a comprehensive vision. So, to break down the difference: 

  • Your strategic framework outlines how you plan on achieving your goals. It considers your resources and conveys in-depth steps to complete. 

  • On the other hand, an IT strategic model outlines or represents your plan. The model maps out your plan’s steps, giving a high-level overview. While it doesn't explain how the method works, it explains the plan's goals and utility.

What are the five stages of strategic planning?

The five stages of strategic planning include:

  1. Analyzing current processes

  2. Securing stakeholder buy-in

  3. Assigning roles and objectives

  4. Executing the plan

  5. Reviewing and iterating

What is an example of an IT strategy?

For an example of an IT strategy, let’s look at the healthcare industry: 

A hospital IT plan could include implementing a uniform electronic health records (ERH) system across all locations. This method seeks to digitize patient records, expedite procedures, and improve care coordination among providers. It also involves efforts to improve data security and ensure compliance with frameworks such as HIPAA. Advanced analytics technologies integrated into the EHR system give vital information for informed decision-making and improved patient outcomes.

Track your strategic planning results with Pluralsight Flow

When a business needs IT strategic planning to stay competitive, the stakes aren’t exactly low. But by understanding what a strategic plan is and how to factor in IT resources, you can meet your strategic goals. When innovation and growth set the gold standard for success, IT planning gives you the tools you need.

Thankfully, your organization doesn’t have to go in blind. Pluralsight Flow is an engineering transformation partner that enables you to identify actionable insights for improved strategic planning.

Flow provides data-driven insights for optimizing workflows, allocating resources efficiently, tracking progress, and encouraging organizational accountability. Flow's extensive analytics and actionable indicators enable teams to make informed decisions and drive continuous improvement in their processes.

To learn more about how Flow can help you meet your goals, schedule a demo with our team today.

Flow Transformation Team

Flow T.

Our engineering transformation experts are here to help you and your team embrace The Flow transformation process by establishing a foundation, demonstrating impact, and strategically growing your team in the most effective and efficient way possible.

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