Joshua Eastgate is the CIO of a large international services organisation. His organisation recently published their new strategy to take their business to the next level in market penetration, profitability and customer satisfaction. Mr Eastgate had been part of the strategy committee that drafted this all important document and he was fully bought into it.
It was now Eastgate’s turn to create a technology (IT) strategy that would support the goals of the new organisational strategy. He looked at the IT strategy from two aspects – supporting organisational effectiveness goals like effectiveness, employee satisfaction, productivity, profitability etc. and supporting business goals like new customers, customer retention, customer satisfaction, digital strategy, web and mobile access, brand, fund raising etc. Eastgate also wanted to raise the level of his IT department from being a mere service providers to being a business partner to the frontline groups.
Eastgate decided that he needed to engage a team of experts who would help him create this IT strategy. He floated an RFP to some of the leading international IT organisations asking them submit proposals for creating the IT strategy. He got five good proposals from high-end international organisations.
The reasons that Eastgate was going with a partner to create his IT strategy were that he did not have the technology experience or expertise in-house. Also as an external entity, a partner organisation would be able to have an unbiased external look at his organisation. There were some tensions between the IT department and some of the other departments and Eastgate felt that an external team would be able vibe with the different groups to smooth over any tensions. Also the long holidays were coming up and he felt that many of the organisational employees would be on leave.
He needed to make a decision and choose from the five organisations that had submitted proposals.You, reader, can you help Eastgate choose the right partner for creating his IT strategy? What are five (5) key factors you would advise that Eastgate used to decide which was the proposal most suited to deliver what he wanted?
We believe that along with looking at standard parameters like organisational experience, organisational background etc., Eastgate should look at the following five key parameters which will make or break the strategy creation.
- Who are the people in the vendor organisation who will be assigned to do the actual work? Does he know them? Many organisations will present highly experienced people at the proposal presentation, but throw junior level staff (with a lot of templates) at the actual work. This will lead to disaster. Eastgate has to choose the vendor who will undertake to provide highly experienced people to do the actual work.
- Is the vendor ready to customize their approach and deliverables to Eastgate’s needs? Many organisations work with templates and pre-prepared formats for conducting meetings and creating deliverables. These, while they may look professional, may not give Eastgate what he really wants. Also how flexible is the organisation to schedule work around Eastgate’s organisational needs (like working around a long holiday schedule).
- Will the approach followed by the vendor allow Eastgate to get to “see” the strategy as it develops? This allows effecting corrections and changes where required early on. In contrast, in traditional approaches followed by most organisations Eastgate has to give in his requirements and wait till the whole strategy is developed. It then becomes difficult to change or correct any requirements. If the vendor follows an Agile approach, the building of the IT strategy is done in an incremental, iterative manner. The IT strategy evolves in a collaborative manner involving all the stakeholders. Each iteration of the process delivers a piece of usable product. This approach allows for continuous improvement and builds in the flexibility to respond to change.
- Will the strategy created by the vendor be delivered in a “live” document/documents? This is important. Strategy documentation should be in a format that is “live”: that is, it should be modifiable as requirements or technologies change. This change should be easily “cascade-able” through the different levels of the strategy. This is critical. A beautifully bound IT strategy document may look very professional, but will not serve the purpose of a developing organisation like Eastgate’s.
- Finally, how comfortable is Eastgate with organisation and the people in the organisation? He must have seen a couple of them during interactions with the vendor. Does he feel that he can build a long-term relationship with them? This is the most key factor.