Digital technology is transforming how people connect with the histories, objects and places that mean the most to them. Heritage professionals rely on technology to perform most of their daily tasks. You need the right technology, people and processes in place to drive digital innovation and support day-to-day operations in your organisation. That’s where having an IT strategy can help.
An IT strategy is a blueprint that sets out how you’ll use technology to achieve your organisational goals and support effective operations. The document states:
- where your organisation is now
- where you want it to be
- the steps you’ll need to take in achieving your organisation’s future vision.
The strategy doesn’t only cover machines, systems and applications – it also defines the procedures and technical knowledge required to keep your technology running smoothly.
Elissa Truby, an independent consultant to the heritage sector, outlines the benefits that an IT strategy can bring to your organisation. She explains the contents of a winning IT strategy document and introduces you to a downloadable template that you can use for your organisation’s IT strategy.
An IT strategy isn’t the same as digital strategy, although the two can complement each other.
- A digital strategy usually looks beyond your organisation’s IT function at how you can use digital channels or content to increase virtual engagement.
- An IT strategy includes the methods of delivery.
Think of your digital strategy as a map of the journey you want to take, and your IT strategy as a document that establishes how you will reach your destination.
Do you need an IT strategy if you already have a digital strategy? If you have an IT team, regardless of its size, the answer is almost certainly, yes.
An IT strategy can help you to do the following:
- Effectively prioritise and allocate resources towards projects that require technical support.
- Remain proactive in responding to changing organisational requirements and new trends in digital cultural heritage.
- Communicate the value that your IT services bring to the rest of your organisation.
- Ensure that staff know where and how they can access IT support to enable them to work productively and efficiently.
- Reduce the risks and costs associated with the use of unmanaged systems across your entire organisation.
It is important that you frame your IT strategy in the context of your organisation’s wider vision, mission and goals.
Define your overall vision for IT and provide an overview of your current state. You will then be in a position to look in more detail at any upcoming organisational changes or wider trends that will shape your strategy in the future.
The aim is to create a clear and thorough picture of where you want your IT capabilities to be in the next five years. For example, you might consider the following:
- A move towards cloud technology to reduce costs or support remote working.
- Major digital projects or transformation programmes.
- Expansion into new areas of digital cultural heritage.
- Collaborative partnerships with other organisations or groups.
- Innovative ways in which other heritage organisations are using technology.
By looking at longer-term solutions, you can plan and prioritise the work of your IT team. This will enable you to remain proactive in the face of growing demands for IT support.
Your IT strategy won’t be useful if you don’t have the IT budget and staff required to achieve your vision. Unlike in large, commercial companies, in the heritage sector it can be challenging to source technical skills, high-end systems and other resources necessary to sustain the desired level of digital growth.
Undertake a gap analysis between where you are now and what you want to achieve. Addressing the weaknesses or shortfalls of current IT systems, staffing or processes will help you highlight potential risks and advocate for increased IT resources.
Your IT strategy should never be developed in isolation. You can begin by outlining your organisation’s broader objectives, and addressing the ways in which IT systems, services and skills can help.
You may already have business strategy documents that will provide you with a sense of direction, for example, your organisation’s vision, mission and goals. You should reference these in your IT strategy.
Conduct research by speaking to staff in other parts of your organisation to find out more about their priorities and areas that may need IT support.
An IT strategy is a business document, not a technical one. It should be concise so that senior leaders can fully understand the implications of your plan. You will also want to ensure that all staff are aware of how IT can support their daily work or digital initiatives. Users who find IT systems and services easy to engage with will be supportive of your IT team and its strategy. Therefore, you should avoid using technical terminology.
An IT team works best when it can demonstrate its value with facts. You should outline how you plan to measure the success of your IT strategy at each step.
Your organisation’s priorities will evolve over time. Therefore, your IT strategy should adapt to match changing objectives. When you’ve established your strategy, ensure that you revisit past objectives and communicate any lessons learned from completed projects or milestones.
Now that you’re aware that an IT team needs an IT strategy to direct its vision and meet organisational demands, you can begin developing it straight away. Remember to involve relevant staff to help you understand where you are now and to envision where you want to go.
Download the template for creating your IT strategy (PDF file, 349kb).
Please attribute as: "How to create a successful IT strategy (2022) by Elissa Truby supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, licensed under CC BY 4.0