Strategic Planning & Technology Management
While no one has a crystal ball, the development of a Strategic Technology Plan allows organizations to make careful and prudent plans for the impact of technology on their operations.
A comprehensive Technology Plan includes Facilitated Workshops and Visioning Sessions to support stakeholders as they determine how technology can impact the future of their organization, Program and Standards Development to ensure consistency of application across multiple sites and location, Budget Projections that predict both capital and operating expenditures and a clear set of recommendations that are closely integrated and aligned with the organization’s overall mission and goals. Vantage’s Consultants have successfully executed many Strategic Technology Plans both as part of overall Master Plans and as standalone documents for our Education, Corporate and Healthcare clients.
In order to maximize the time and money invested in technology and minimize dead-ends and stranded technology investments, specific technology decisions should be made as part of a multi-year technology plan. Technology projects should be planned and prioritized to make sure that projects fit in with the longer term strategic plan, build on one another, and obtain the best return on your technology investments.
With all that being said, how can you possibly plan for future technologies when everything changes and we don’t know what those changes may be? The answer is to develop a ‘technology context’. A technology context is an institution-wide framework for evaluating technology decisions.
When one begins to play any new game or sport, the first questions are “What are rules? Where are the boundaries? How do I score?” Answers to these questions form the context of the game and allows you, the player, to judge and select among the various choices that you will face. (Run or pass? Hold or draw? Attack or retreat?)
Developing this same type of context is an important aspect of strategic technology planning as well. It will constitute the foundation upon which many future decisions will rest. Strategic planning will help you understand the present state of technology on campus and how it appears to the users and the community. It will provide a cross-section of the long-term needs and goals to be met and help define the present and future requirements.
Facilitated Workshops and Visioning Sessions
I Have a Dream
The purpose of a technology vision is to provide shared objectives and goals that all involved parties will work together to obtain. Toward this end Vantage provides technology facilitated workshop and visioning sessions for Upper Management and technology line staff alike. The first part of this workshop focuses on visioning by presenting a diverse range of advanced technologies and technology applications. This presentation is designed to take participants well beyond their current experience with technology. Doing so diminishes the tendency for participants to complain about current limitations of technology and encourages discussion along the lines of “if money were no object, then…” and “if we were to do something like that, then I would want it to work like this”. In the second part of the workshop, Vantage links promising technology ideas to specific functions and solutions. The purpose of this part of the workshop is three-fold – to develop and validate an organization’s technology vision; to ensure that the vision is achievable and reasonable; and to build consensus around the emerging ideas. The overall purpose is to stimulate discussion and open the lines of communications.
Governance and Policy
Who’s In Charge Here?
Information Technology Governance (ITG) is defined as “Specifying the decision rights and accountability framework to encourage desirable behavior in using IT. More informally IT governance describes who makes which decisions, who provides input and analyzes the issues, who sets priorities, and who settles disputes when there is no clear consensus.” (Definition from The EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research (ECAR) in “Process and Politics: IT Governance in Higher Education”)
While Vantage generally concurs with this definition of IT Governance, we would go on to note that IT Governance isn’t just a committee or a series of committees; it is also a logical, well thought out, and participatory process. As with many processes, the value lies as much in facilitating the lines of communications as it does with the actual structure and functions of the governance organization.
Vantage work with clients to assess, refine, and define the processes to make governance and policy work effective for YOUR organization and for the specific technologies you need to control.
People Who Love People
The right people in the right positions with the right skills and the right management make all the difference in the world. Given the recent convergence of technology, many organizations find that the traditional organizational structure no longer work as required. Vantage works with clients to assess the organizational structures for managing technologies and recommend changes that will make technology management more efficient, streamlined, responsive, and productive.
Getting There Is Half the Fun
You’ve selected a new technology, a new approach, a new plan… Now you just need to implement it. But how? Everything can’t stop while you make changes and daily activities need to go on. Should the transition be phased or flash cut? Parallel or sequential? By need or geography, or function? Vantage can help with the complex process of transition planning, assisting with understanding and documenting what needs to happen, in what order, by whom, when, and how.
The RFP, a Recipe for Protection
The Request for Proposals, in all of its different forms (RFP, RFB, RFQ, ITB, etc.), has always been a critical document in the procurement process, providing both the detailed technical specifications as well as the basis for the contract and the future relationship between the customer and vendor. Technology churn, shorter life-cycles, vendor volatility, elastic “standards”, and convergence in general are all changing both our industry and the RFP. But while many aspects of the RFP have changed, other things have not. Based on years of experience and hundreds of technology projects, Vantage’s RFP provides the strength of a traditional RFP with the new safeguards necessary in a converged environment.
Preventing Bad Things from Happening to Good Projects
Vantage offers a broad range of implementation assistance from full project management to implementation oversight. On one hand, despite the changes in technology, what usually goes wrong with a project still goes wrong (organization, time, scope, money, and management). On the other hand, new technologies, convergence, integration, and new applications all bring their own unique implementation challenges. For example, in the Unified Communications arena, there is a signification difference in implementing “a data application that happens to be voice” and a “voice application that happens to ride on the data network”. Vantage can draw upon its depth of project experience to help you steer clear of common implementation pitfalls.
Business Continuity / Campus Safety / Disaster Avoidance, Continuity, and Recovery Planning
Things That Go Bump in the Night…
Disaster planning for information technologies has taken on an increased importance at many institutions. This has been precipitated by renewed interest from Boards of Trustees, auditors, Risk Managers, and prudent IT managers all concerned with vulnerabilities and business continuity issues in the wake of recent disasters (natural and made-made), Concerns with points-of-failure as technology becomes critical in day-to-day operations, concerns with keeping communications operable in case of a campus-wide or regional disaster and the desire to obtain an outside perspective on the various issues associated with disaster planning.
Vantage is available to assist with disaster planning in many ways. Our range of services includes:
- Disaster planning presentations to assist upper management and the planning team better understand the nature of these projects and prepare for the tasks ahead.
- IT disaster planning workshops to work with IT staff on preparing a useful and realistic disaster plan.
- Disaster plan testing and training using Vantage’s Master of Disaster ®, an inter-active, scenario-building and role-playing board game.
- Risk analysis audits including a walk-though of technology locations on campus to become familiar with the current spaces and critical technology centers, interviews with key stakeholders, and a review of the existing Information Technology documents. This is followed by a report identifying risk factors and suggestions of ways they might be ameliorated. Vantage will also provide additional information, documentation, and forms which might make the disaster planning and plan more effective.
- Review of existing disaster plans including annotations, comments, suggestions, and recommendations.
- Writing of the revised plan or sections thereof, and/or reviewing/approving client-revised plans when finalized.
- Development and negotiations of disaster level of service agreements between IT organizations and the departments they serve.
- Full disaster planning services including all of the above.
Financial Modeling and Assessment
Follow the Money
Todd’s First Financial Principal says “No matter what we’re talking about, we’re talking about money.” Accordingly, it should be no surprise that the underlying question in every assessment, feasibility study, or evaluation, is “What’s it going to Cost?”
There are two aspects to Vantage’s financial modeling – procurement and operations. With a new procurement it is important to accurately predict the life-cycle costs of the solutions under consideration. This is especially true when evaluation dissimilar procurement processes such as the outright purchase of a premises-based solution versus the on-going rental of a cloud-based solution.
From the operational standpoint, while technology is generally understood to play a vital role in the day-to-day operations of any organization, the present economic climate has forced all departments to “tighten their belts”. Consequently, technology costs are under some pressure and technology departments need to be sure that the costs are justifiable, predictable, equitable, and in line with the present business environment. A well-constructed financial model also provides a valuable tool to determine “what if” scenarios and calculate the impact that various changes might have on costs and the ability of technology departments to deliver vital IT services.