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IT Service Strategy Development: A Comprehensive Guide

Updated: Apr 26

Introduction to IT Service Strategy Development

In the heart of any successful business lies a well-orchestrated IT service strategy. The blueprint guides IT services' management, delivery, and improvement to business users and customers.

A well-developed IT service strategy ensures that IT processes align directly with business goals, delivering value and driving innovation. The significance of an IT service strategy extends beyond mere technological considerations (a common pitfall in my experience); it's about enabling a business to navigate the complexities of digital transformation, ensuring resilience, and fostering a culture of continuous improvement.

a picture of people discussing a plan

The Value of a Strategic Approach

A strategic approach to IT services offers numerous benefits, including;

  • improved efficiency

  • reduced costs

  • enhanced customer satisfaction

  • a competitive edge in the marketplace

By aligning IT objectives with business goals, organisations can ensure that technology investments contribute directly to business outcomes, driving growth and profitability.

What are the Contents of an IT Service Strategy?

An IT service strategy is a critical component of the broader IT management framework, often aligning with methodologies such as ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library). This strategy aims to ensure that IT services are aligned with the business's needs and objectives, providing a roadmap for how IT can support and drive business growth.

Here are the key components that would typically form part of an IT service strategy:

  1. Service Management Strategy The overall approach to managing IT services, including service delivery and support. It outlines how IT will enable the business to achieve its objectives, focusing on value creation, resource optimisation, and quality improvement.

  2. Service Portfolio Management Involves managing the entire lifecycle of IT services, from conception through retirement. This includes documenting and tracking the status of services, their performance, and how they align with business objectives.

  3. Financial Management for IT Services Focuses on budgeting, accounting, and charging processes to ensure that IT services are cost-effective and that expenditures are aligned with business value.

  4. Demand Management Identifies, anticipates, and influences customer demand for IT services. It includes understanding the business requirements and planning IT services to meet them efficiently.

  5. Service Level Management (SLM) Establishes and maintains agreements between the IT service provider and customers regarding the expected service levels. It ensures that IT services are delivered at the agreed-upon standards, quality, and costs.

  6. Risk Management Identifies, assesses, and controls risks to the IT services, ensuring that the IT strategy aligns with the business's risk appetite and compliance requirements.

  7. Business Relationship Management Aims to maintain a positive relationship between IT and its customers/business units. It involves understanding the business needs and ensuring that the IT services align with them.

  8. IT Governance Establishes the framework and processes for decision-making regarding IT investments, priorities, and policy adherence, ensuring alignment with the organisation's goals and regulatory requirements.

  9. Technology Strategy and Planning Involves planning for current and future IT technologies that will be required to support the business objectives. It includes considerations for infrastructure, software, and emerging technologies.

  10. Change Management Ensures that standardised methods and procedures are used for efficient and prompt handling of all changes to minimise the impact of change-related incidents upon service quality.

  11. Service Design and Transition Involves designing and transitioning services into the live environment, ensuring that new, modified, or retired services meet the expectations of the business and customers.

Step-By-Step Guide to Creating an IT Service Strategy

Step 1: Understanding Your Current State

Before developing a new IT service strategy, it's crucial to have a comprehensive understanding of your current IT landscape. This involves an in-depth analysis of existing IT infrastructure, services, processes, and capabilities.

Conduct a SWOT Analysis

Identify the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats related to your IT services. This will provide valuable insights into areas that require improvement and potential avenues for leveraging technology to drive business growth.

Assess IT Maturity

Evaluate the maturity of your IT processes and frameworks using models such as COBIT or ITIL. This assessment will highlight areas of excellence and those needing enhancement.

SWOT Analysis Components
SWOT Analysis Components

Step 2: Define Your IT Service Vision and Objectives

A clear vision and set of objectives are the cornerstones of any strategic plan. When developing an IT service strategy, these should reflect not only the aspirations of the IT department but also the broader business goals.

Craft a Vision Statement

Your vision statement should encapsulate what you aim to achieve with your IT services in the long term. It should be inspiring, clear, and aligned with the business strategy.

Here's an example;

"Transforming and empowering our organisation through innovative and resilient IT services that drive operational excellence, foster sustainable growth, and enhance customer experience. We aspire to be recognised as a proactive and strategic partner, enabling business agility and competitive advantage by seamlessly integrating cutting-edge technology solutions. Our commitment is to deliver reliable, efficient, and secure IT services tailored to our business's and its stakeholders' evolving needs, ensuring excellence in every interaction and facilitating the achievement of our organisational goals."

Set SMART Objectives

Objectives should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. They act as a roadmap for achieving your vision, with clear metrics for success.

I've repeatedly stated my preference for OKRs, so if you are unfamiliar with them, check out the link.

Here are a couple of examples;

  1. Improve Service Desk Response Times "Reduce the average initial response time for IT service desk inquiries by 30% within the next 12 months by implementing an automated ticketing system and enhancing staff response strategies."

  2. Enhance IT Infrastructure Reliability "Increase the overall uptime of critical IT systems to 99.9% over the next 18 months through system upgrades, redundancy implementation, and regular maintenance."

  3. Increase Adoption of Cloud Services "Achieve a 50% migration of on-premises services to cloud-based solutions within the next 24 months, supported by a comprehensive cloud migration strategy and staff training on cloud technologies."

Step 3: Gap Analysis and Strategic Planning

With a thorough understanding of your current state and a clear vision for the future, the next step is identifying the gaps between where you are now and where you want to be.

This gap analysis will guide the development of your strategic plan.

Identify Gaps

Compare your current IT capabilities with the desired state outlined in your objectives. This will reveal areas that require development, such as skills, technologies, or processes.

If you've conducted the maturity assessment against ITIL or COBIT, you should be able to leverage those results easily into your gap assessment and identify areas for improvement.

Develop a Roadmap

Create a strategic roadmap outlining the initiatives and projects to bridge the identified gaps. This should include timelines, milestones, and resource allocations.

Here's a great high-level example from cio-wiki. In fact, the easier it is for a team to digest and track against, the better.

an example of a IT service strategy roadmap
an example of a IT service strategy roadmap

Step 4: Aligning IT and Business Goals

A critical aspect of developing an IT service strategy is ensuring alignment between IT and business goals. This alignment ensures that IT services directly contribute to achieving business objectives, maximising the value of technology investments.

Engage Stakeholders

Regular engagement with business leaders and key stakeholders is essential to understand their goals, challenges, and how IT can support them.

Align Projects with Business Objectives

Ensure that each project or initiative within the IT strategy is directly linked to specific business objectives, demonstrating how IT contributes to the organisation's overall success.

I do want to stress, though, that in the absence of an overarching company strategy (which frankly happens very frequently), you can still align to the initiatives and direction of the organisation. Don't wait for a higher strategy if one isn't available. Proceed with what you know.

Step 5: Implementing a Framework for Continuous Improvement

The technology landscape is constantly changing, and an effective IT service strategy must be adaptable. Implementing a framework for continuous improvement ensures that your strategy remains relevant and effective over time.

ITIL, ISO and a host of other governance toolkits recommend a process of reflection and improvement upon your results. This is often called the PDCA cycle (Plan - Do - Check - Act).

Your strategy must articulate the framework for continuous improvement. It needn't be complicated, but it should exist.

a continous improvement process diagram
The Continuous Improvement Process

Adopt Agile Methodologies

Agile methodologies such as Scrum or Kanban can introduce flexibility and responsiveness into IT service delivery, enabling quicker adjustments to changing business needs.

Incorporate Feedback Loops

Establish mechanisms for gathering and analysing feedback from IT service users and other stakeholders. This feedback is invaluable for identifying areas for improvement and validating the strategy's effectiveness.

Step 6: Technology Investment and Management

A pivotal component of an IT service strategy is the careful consideration and investment in technology. This involves identifying the right technological solutions that align with your strategic objectives and also ensuring that investments are managed effectively to deliver maximum value.

Strategic Technology Investment

Prioritise investments in technology that have the greatest potential to drive business growth and operational efficiency. This may include cloud computing, AI, and cybersecurity solutions.

ROI Analysis

Conduct a return on investment (ROI) analysis for each technology investment to ensure it aligns with strategic goals and delivers tangible benefits.

Step 7: Skills Development and Talent Management

The success of an IT service strategy is heavily dependent on the skills and capabilities of the IT team.

As technology evolves, so must the skills of those who manage and deliver IT services.

Identify Skill Gaps

Regularly assess the IT team's skills against the requirements of your IT service strategy. Identify gaps and areas where upskilling is needed.

Talent Management Strategies

Develop strategies for talent management that may include training programs, hiring new staff with the required competencies, or leveraging external partners and consultants.

Step 8: Risk Management and Compliance

Risk management and compliance are critical to ensuring that an IT service strategy supports and does not hinder the organisation's goals. This involves identifying potential risks to IT service delivery and establishing controls to mitigate the risks.

Conduct a Risk Assessment

Identify potential risks to IT services, including cybersecurity threats, data breaches, and system failures. Assess the likelihood and impact of these risks.

Implement Risk Mitigation Strategies

Develop and implement strategies to mitigate identified risks. This may include cybersecurity measures, disaster recovery planning, and business continuity management.

Risk Management Process Steps
Risk Management Process Steps

Step 9: Measuring Success and KPIs

To ensure the ongoing effectiveness of your IT service strategy, it's essential to establish Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that can measure success against your strategic objectives.

Define Relevant KPIs

Identify KPIs that are directly aligned with the objectives of your IT service strategy. These might include metrics related to system uptime, customer satisfaction, and cost savings.

Here are some examples of the kinds of things you might want to consider tracking at a high level;

Area of Measurement



Service Desk Performance

First Contact Resolution Rate

Percentage of incidents resolved during the first interaction with the service desk.

Average Resolution Time

Average time taken to resolve incidents.

System and Infrastructure Reliability

System Uptime

Percentage of time IT services are available and operational, excluding planned downtime.

Mean Time to Repair (MTTR)

Average time it takes to repair a system or component after a failure.

Security and Compliance

Number of Security Incidents

Total count of security breaches or incidents.

Compliance Rate

Percentage of IT systems and processes compliant with relevant regulations and standards.

Customer Satisfaction

Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT)

Measure from customer feedback surveys indicating the satisfaction level with IT services.

Net Promoter Score (NPS)

Likelihood of users to recommend IT services to others, indicating customer loyalty and satisfaction.

Cost Efficiency and Value Creation

Cost Per Ticket

The average cost of resolving a service desk ticket.

ROI on IT Projects

Return on investment for IT projects, measuring the financial value generated relative to cost.

Cloud Services Adoption and Utilization

Cloud Migration Completion Rate

Percentage of targeted services successfully migrated to the cloud.

Cloud Resource Utilization

Efficiency of cloud resource usage in terms of cost and performance.

Regular Review and Adjustment

Regularly review the performance against these KPIs and adjust your strategy as necessary to address any underperformance areas or capitalise on new opportunities.

Step 10: Cultivating a Culture of Innovation

For an IT service strategy to remain relevant and effective, fostering a culture of innovation within the IT team and the broader organisation is crucial.

Create an environment where innovation is encouraged and rewarded. This could involve setting up innovation labs, hackathons, or providing time and resources for experimentation.

Stay abreast of emerging technologies and assess their potential impact on your IT service strategy. Consider pilot projects or proofs of concept to explore new technologies in a controlled environment.

For some examples of IT Service Strategies, check out my article here.

Conclusion - Bringing It All Together

Developing a comprehensive IT service strategy requires a meticulous approach, starting from understanding the current state of IT services to aligning IT and business goals, and implementing a framework for continuous improvement.

By following the steps outlined in this guide, organisations can ensure that their IT service strategy is robust, adaptable, and aligned with their overarching business objectives.

Moreover, the successful implementation of an IT service strategy is not a one-time effort but a continuous journey that involves regular reviews, updates, and adaptations to the strategy in response to changing business needs, technological advancements, and emerging risks.

By embedding the principles of continuous improvement and innovation, organisations can create a dynamic IT service environment that supports and drives business growth and success.

In conclusion, an effective IT service strategy is vital for any organisation leveraging technology for business success. By carefully planning, implementing, and continually refining your IT service strategy, you can ensure that your IT services are not just a back-office function but a strategic asset that delivers real value to your business.

Remember, the goal is not just to keep up with the pace of technological change but to anticipate and shape the future of your organisation's IT landscape.


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