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Systems Plan, What is it? Does it really exist?

Many times, the term “Systems Plan” is mentioned, but how many companies actually have a Systems Plan? In this brief note, we will try to explain what a Systems Plan is, its characteristics, what it should include, and what are the most common mistakes we can encounter.

Definitions of a Systems Plan

We often come into contact with Technology Leaders in various organizations and ask about the Systems Plan they follow to strengthen and support the business. The responses we get are often surprising due to the lack of awareness or absence of this basic practice that any sector responsible for Information Technology in a company should maintain.

To start, a Systems Plan involves documenting the foundations and strategies of the Systems and Technology area within an organization, based on its Vision, Mission, and Objectives.

The Systems Plan is “nourished” by the company’s business plans and the areas that comprise it, along with all the Indicators that are vital for managing an organization.

Understanding the company’s needs, its current and future development plans, economic margins, etc., should result in a strategy design that the IT sector will implement to support and assist the business in achieving these objectives.

Components of a Systems Plan

A Systems Plan consists of the following points:

  1. Understanding Business Objectives
  2. Knowledge of Business Processes
  3. Organizational Structure of the IT Department
  4. Definition of technological tools that support Business Processes
  5. Strategy for the “sustainability” of Systems Services
  6. Definition and Selection of IT Services and Project methodologies to apply during the Business Processes’ Lifecycle

Understanding Business Objectives

All sectors within a company perform essential tasks to achieve business objectives based on their understanding of their Roles and Responsibilities within an organization.

The IT Department will work to understand the business fundamentals, devise mechanisms, and methodologies to accompany and help achieve these objectives.

The Systems area must work to define with the organization’s stakeholders what fundamental services it should provide, what Service Levels the company requires to support its processes, what performance indicators it needs to understand the business’s health, what means and costs it is willing to pay, etc.

These tasks are basic and non-delegable by an IT Leader in an organization and are part of the foundations on which the area is built.

Knowledge of Business Processes

Today, all competitive companies in their field require accurate information, where the time to obtain this information is almost instantaneous to make the best business decisions.

To meet this requirement, Business Processes must be supported by technological tools that allow managing them, understanding their capacities, and thus obtaining information to implement improvements that enable the company to consistently surpass results and stay aligned with business objectives.

Without this premise, companies start wasting resources (human and economic), become unaware of their results, cannot plan, and consequently, lose competitiveness.

Organizational Structure of the IT Department

When the IT Leader has analyzed and assimilated the needs, objectives, and business processes, they will be able to define the Department’s structure and the necessary resource skills to meet the stakeholders’ requirements.

The balance in the structure will be fundamental to cover the services the organization requires. When we say “balance,” we refer to incorporating those skills that understand business functions and processes, detecting the organization’s fundamental rules and characteristics to transfer to the technical skills within the Department.

Currently, the IT manager defines, based on the business “core,” which key profiles should be part of the company’s staff and which profiles or services should be outsourced due to volume, technical capabilities, or strategic reasons.

Definition of Technological Tools that Support Business Processes

It’s time to discuss how the tools that will accompany each Business Process are selected. This definition is related to three fundamental pillars:

  1. The vertical functions that the business has and that the tool must support.
  2. The maturity of the technological Lifecycle in which the tool is found.
  3. The costs the company will incur, not only for the initial implementation of the tool (called One-Time Costs) but the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO), which includes those costs necessary for the tool’s maintenance over an amortization period.

Understanding the business strategy (market search, growth, diversification, etc.) is necessary to use during the tool research and dimension the functionalities, tools to obtain KPIs, and capacity for continuous improvement in the company’s results pursuit.

Technological foundations will ensure the availability of the service that stakeholders require, along with maintenance costs. Understanding that a cheaper initial cost for selecting a tool with low scalability, reaching the end of its useful life, can have a higher Total Cost if we consider the tool’s amortization cycle and the service problems for the end user.

Strategy for Sustainability of Systems Services

The technological structure that a Systems Department provides to the business does not end in completing projects, providing support through Helpdesk, delivering the latest smartphone, etc. The performance and full availability of IT services in modern companies are fundamental parts of the area’s goal fulfillment. Therefore, it is necessary to Analyze and Outline the mechanisms (technologies, services, human resources, etc.) required to ensure business continuity in various disaster situations.

For this, the IT manager, along with the Department members, defines with the stakeholders which IT services are essential for business performance and continuity and develops a DRP (Disaster Recovery Plan) detailing the tools, processes, and tasks to maintain service availability in case of a problem.

Definition and Selection of IT Services and Project Methodologies to Apply During the Business Processes’ Lifecycle

The safeguarding and assurance of Quality in Projects and Services, budget care, and meeting delivery times are ensured through adopting Project (PMBOK from PMI) and Service (ITIL, CMM, etc.) methodologies.

Using KPIs is fundamental to control and improve the area’s performance for its internal clients.

In summary, the Systems Plan consists of documented, foundational norms required by a Systems and Technology Department to meet an organization’s needs. Without it, providing a service that meets users’ demands will be impossible.

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