Approaches to Strategic Information Systems Planning

Information systems need a strategy that helps the organization gain a competitive advantage, reduce costs, or help with productivity

The reason for information systems to exist in an organization is to streamline daily tasks and provide a competitive edge over other companies. But, selecting and planning an information system implementation depends on a lot of factors including the needs of the organization, how management sees information systems, and the resources available.

In the context of information systems, strategy refers to thinking about the information system organization and the integration within the overall company (Cassidy, 2006). To be valid, information systems need a strategy that helps the organization gain a competitive advantage, reduce costs, or help with productivity. The information system strategies must align with the business so the organization can reach its goals and objectives. In the following sections, I detail five approaches to strategic information systems planning that organizations could use to align information systems with their goals.

Strategic Information Systems Planning Approaches

The process of deciding the objectives of the organization in terms of computing and identifying potential applications that can be implemented in the organization is what is known as Strategic Information Systems Planning (Lederer & Sethi, 1988). This report covers the five strategic information systems planning approaches covered in the book Strategic Information Management: Challenges and Strategies in Managing Information Systems by Gilliers and Leidner. These strategic approaches are business-led, method-driven, administrative, technological, and organizational.

Business-Led

This approach to strategic information systems planning takes the assumption that the business directions and plans are the only foundations for information systems; and business planning should be the only force that drives strategic information systems planning (Galliers & Leidner, 2003). Therefore, business leads the information systems while information systems cannot lead business strategies (Galliers & Leidner, 2003). All business plans are analyzed to later identify what information systems are required to meet the needs of the organization (Galliers & Leidner, 2003). The information systems plan is usually created by the IS director and later presented to the board of directors for further questions, priorities, and approval (Galliers & Leidner, 2003).

Pros:
  • The organization sees information systems as a strategic resource (Galliers & Leidner, 2003).
  • The strategic trust required by IT can be identified and the information systems can be aligned to the business goals (Galliers & Leidner, 2003).
  • It can concentrate on business first and it raises the status of the information systems (Galliers & Leidner, 2003).
Cons:
  • Line managers and end-users have little involvement with strategic information system planning (Galliers & Leidner, 2003).
  • As users have little involvement, there is a resistance to change and users complain about the little involvement they have in the project (Galliers & Leidner, 2003).
  • It lacks the commitment of the management and it depends on the quality of the business strategy (Galliers & Leidner, 2003).
Method-Driven

The method-driven approach assumes that strategic information systems planning depends on the use of a formal methodology (Galliers & Leidner, 2003). Therefore, it considers that managers will not be able to think in terms of information systems needs without the help of a consultant or without having a set of methods to help them find out the needs and opportunities that can be solved by information systems (Galliers & Leidner, 2003).

Pros:
  • It provides a methodology that the organization can follow (Galliers & Leidner, 2003).
  • There is user involvement with the information systems strategy (Galliers & Leidner, 2003).
Cons:
  • The IS director believes that management does not think about the needs of the information systems without being proved by a formal method (Galliers & Leidner, 2003).
  • Formal methods used in strategic planning might be performed by unskilled people which makes the strategy fail to get support from the entire organization (Galliers & Leidner, 2003).
  • There is a constant search for the perfect method as the IS function might fail while doing the strategic planning.
  • Managers might feel excluded from this approach and they will judge or resist the change offered by the strategy (Galliers & Leidner, 2003).
Administrative

The administrative approach takes into consideration the information systems resources of the organization and puts emphasis on resource planning (Galliers & Leidner, 2003). During this approach, different business functions submit proposals for IS development to the company committees (Galliers & Leidner, 2003). These committees then examine the project viability and the use of resources needed by those projects (Galliers & Leidner, 2003). The administrative approach is attached to the financial planning or capital budgeting of the organization; and the applications are not further developed until they are on the plan (Galliers & Leidner, 2003). Finally, the committee is the one that makes all the decisions on the planning and changes of any of the systems.

Pros:
  • The procedures used in strategic information systems planning are public and every user has an opportunity to submit their proposals (Galliers & Leidner, 2003).
  • Encourage users to submit their proposals which could be a good source of ideas for competitive advantage (Galliers & Leidner, 2003).
Cons:
  • It makes more emphasis on allocating resources than on a strategy (Galliers & Leidner, 2003).
  • The Board of directors and CEOs could apply cuts to the information system budget thinking that they do not damage the organization (Galliers & Leidner, 2003).
  • It forces the business functions to compete against each other to get the resources for their IS needs (Galliers & Leidner, 2003).
Technological

The technological approach considers that an information system-oriented model is a required outcome of strategic information systems planning and that analytical modeling methods should be performed (Galliers & Leidner, 2003). Thus, a formal method is used based on the processes, activities, and data flows of the organization (Galliers & Leidner, 2003). The outcome of a formal method is architecture or blueprints for the information systems (Galliers & Leidner, 2003).

Pros:
  • It allows IS directors to create a database definition that lets them build better IT infrastructures (Galliers & Leidner, 2003).
  • It favors integrated tools and focuses on the infrastructure (Galliers & Leidner, 2003).
  • A rigorous approach that helps avoid unforeseen mistakes (Galliers & Leidner, 2003).
Cons:
  • It is very resource and requirements-demanding compared to other approaches (Galliers & Leidner, 2003).
  • It takes too long for the analysis and implementation which makes stakeholders lose faith and complain about the strategy (Galliers & Leidner, 2003).
  • Some managers are not sure of the usefulness of the blueprints generated for the information systems (Galliers & Leidner, 2003).
Organizational

The organizational approach supposes that information systems decisions are made through continuous integration of the information system and the company (Galliers & Leidner, 2003). Methods like value analysis, workshops, and project investigation could be used only as required to fit the purpose of the project (Galliers & Leidner, 2003). It makes more emphasis on the process so management can understand and be involved in the strategy (Galliers & Leidner, 2003).

Pros:
  • An IS executive is involved with multiple teams to provide feedback on where, how, and why information technology can help the business functions (Galliers & Leidner, 2003).
  • There is collective learning across the entire organization (Galliers & Leidner, 2003).
  • IS strategies emerge from organizational activities (Galliers & Leidner, 2003).
Cons:
  • Inferior infrastructures could become the norm as the strategy evolves with the organizational activities (Galliers & Leidner, 2003).
  • There is no set of methods that need to be performed; some directors might feel confident when new themes could be generated (Galliers & Leidner, 2003).

Best Practices to Avoid Mistakes During SISP

The role of the system analyst is to focus on the broad strategic role of the information systems and information technology to help the organization carry out technical tasks (Tilley & Rosenblatt, 2017). The system analyst should know the status of the organization and how the IT supports the operations of the organization. Therefore, it should always start with the mission statement of the company so they can understand the firm’s vision and what information systems can be created to achieve the vision (Tilley & Rosenblatt, 2017).

If information systems are not built aligned to the strategy of the business, the system might not be as useful as needed to be and could be discarded by the organization. This means that the organization will be wasting resources and time and a project that was not part of their strategy. A good approach to avoid mistakes during strategic information systems planning is the use of simple tools like gap analysis and SWOT analysis because it gives the analyst a better idea of the status of the company and where it needs to go. For instance, the gap analysis is a realistic assessment of the existing situation of the organization and its information systems compared to what the organization wants to be from the IS standpoint (Cassidy, 2006). The SWOT analysis is another strategic planning tool used by information system specialists to determine the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of a project, product, or organization (Tilley & Rosenblatt, 2017). After creating these analyses and similar ones, the system analysts will have a better understanding of the status of the organization in its market, the current information systems, and the needed tools to achieve the goals of the organization. Thus, they can perform better strategic information system planning because of their sense of the status of the business as a whole and what it is trying to accomplish.

Conclusion

In conclusion, no matter the decided approach of strategic information systems planning, the information systems must be aligned to business goals. The information systems should allow the organizations to gain a competitive advantage and find solutions for common problems and daily tasks. In addition, it is always necessary to perform a deep analysis of the systems that could be implemented and the alternatives so the information systems analysts can advise the organization on what path to take to use technology to solve business problems.

References

Cassidy, A. (2006). A Practical Guide to Information Systems Strategic Planning. Auerbach Publications.
Galliers, R., & Leidner, D. E. (2003). Strategic Information Management: Challenges and Strategies in Managing Information Systems (3rd ed.). Butterworth-Heinemann.
Lederer, A. L., & Sethi, V. (1988). The Implementation of Strategic Information Systems Planning Methodologies. MIS Quarterly, 12(3), 445–461.
Tilley, S. R., & Rosenblatt, H. J. (2017). Systems Analysis and Design (11th ed.). Langara College.