IT Strategy Decisions of an Engineering Firm

An IT strategy has a lot more ground to cover than in the 1980s when I started out in architectural design. Back then the questions revolved around CAD and basic office applications. Now information technology is an enabler for new ways of working, collaborating, and communicating. Information is the most valuable building block in today’s construction.

Starting Off with Business Goals

In my previous post I outlined the IT strategy process I used with my client, an engineering firm. We started off by determining strategic business goals that IT services and solutions help achieve. We set goals for both external and internal efficiency.

Defining Problems and Possible Solutions

When you start charting the territory for IT strategy you find both small and big issues to talk about. To keep the discussion focused we used the following four categories as a framework:

  1. Information management and sharing
  2. IT services
  3. Infrastructure, systems, and technologies
  4. Software applications

For each category we documented the issues that came up during interviews and workshops. We determined their current state and devised possible solutions for the future.

In all, there were around forty questions on our list. One of the key technological questions concerned the use of virtualized versus local engineering workstations. Another topic was the use of local versus cloud-based services. My client currently uses an in-house IT management team to manage its own data center. A survey we conducted among peer companies showed that to be the most common arrangement for them as well.

Determining the Key Decision Points for the IT Strategy

We analyzed the long list of issues and narrowed it down to the following seven topics:

  1. Workstation technologies
  2. Data center solutions
  3. CAD/BIM solutions
  4. Office software solutions
  5. Project and resource management
  6. ICT management
  7. ICT procurement

We identified the alternative IT solutions for the seven areas and evaluated them using nine evaluation criteria and a simple scoring system. Based on the evaluation we were able to determine the preferred solutions.

Laying Out the Roadmap

Finally, we made a roadmap that had the previous seven solutions as lanes. We defined the goal (“to-be”) for each lane, and steps toward the goal for three consecutive years. That may seem like a rather long period in some areas of IT development, and that’s why the roadmap will have to be partly redrawn along the way. However, the roadmap is a necessary tool for decision makers and serves as a means of communication to other stakeholders.

Metrics

During the project we discussed the need for specific IT metrics. We came to the conclusion that the company’s business strategy had already established most of the indicators. Consequently we specified the following four areas for measurement: the realization of the customer proposition, cost efficiency, process efficiency, and employee enablement.

The IT strategy process was quite lean, but it delivered the results the client expected. It was an excellent chance for an open discussion about the IT future from the business point of view. It also provided the necessary direction for decision-making.