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IT Service Strategy Best Practices: A Guide to Excellence

Updated: Apr 26

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Introduction

Nailing your IT service strategy is crucial for building team credibility, aligning IT services with business goals, managing resources efficiently, and ensuring that IT processes support the organisation's objectives.


Suppose you position yourself as the "IT Butler" (a back-office service that only steps forth when asked). In that case, you will always be considered a second-class citizen of a business service rather than being seen as a consultative enabler of a broader business strategy.


I've spoken about creating a service strategy here and provided examples of how strategies can influence real-world situations. This guide advises on best practices and considerations in creating and implementing your service strategy.


Common Pitfalls

The issues with creating a strategy can be numerous, but the major problem is not having one. With that in mind, having something is always better than having nothing.

Here are some of the common issues with IT service strategy development:

  • Missing key aspects of a strategy

  • Failing to align the strategy with the business goals

  • Not catering for your own objectives

  • Having a 'butler' rather than an IT consultant mindset


Below, we'll explore these issues and suggest how to incorporate best practices into your Service Strategy.


Embracing the Essence of Strategic IT Planning


A clear understanding of its quintessential purpose should be at the heart of any IT service strategy. 


It's a narrative that unfolds by addressing the critical questions of our strategic odyssey: 

  • Where do we stand today? 

  • What future state are we striving to reach? 

  • What pathways will lead us there? 

  • And how will we recognise success? 

Consider these aspects through the optics of the executive team as they look at the IT strategy. These questions are not mere formalities but the pillars upon which a successful strategy is built. Failure to include any one of these in your service strategy may signal to stakeholders that the strategy needs to be completed or ill-thought-out.


Ensure that every facet of your IT strategy reflects purpose and direction, crafted to steer clear of the pitfalls of ambiguity and misalignment.


Example: Adobe's Shift to Cloud Services


  • Adobe transformed its business model by shifting from traditional software sales to a cloud-based subscription model with its Creative Cloud service. This strategic move aligned with the evolving digital landscape and Adobe's future vision of providing more value and innovation. It demonstrates strategic IT planning by identifying the future state Adobe aimed for and executing a pathway to reach it, significantly enhancing customer satisfaction and revenue growth.

Harmonising with Business Objectives


The cornerstone of crafting a compelling IT service strategy is its resonance with the business's core objectives. 


Harmony between IT and business goals is not just beneficial; it's essential for fostering a culture of innovation, driving resource efficiency, and enhancing customer satisfaction.


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A well-aligned IT strategy acts as a compass, guiding the organisation through the complexities of growth and transformation, ensuring that technological advancements are not just implemented but are integral in driving business success.


In crafting your strategy, consider it a living document that evolves in tandem with the strategic direction of the business. This dynamic approach ensures that IT remains a steadfast partner in the organisation's journey, seamlessly integrating innovation and efficiency for competitive advantage.


Example: Domino's Pizza Digital Transformation


  • Domino's Pizza's digital transformation is an example of IT strategy aligning with business goals. By developing an easy-to-use online ordering system and a range of mobile apps, Domino's enhanced customer experience and streamlined operations. This IT strategy, harmonised with the business objective of increasing sales through digital channels, led to Domino's becoming the largest pizza company in the world based on global retail sales.


Catering to Inward-Facing Objectives


While alignment with broader business goals is paramount, an IT service strategy should also turn its gaze inward, addressing objectives unique to the IT team. 


This might encompass initiatives aimed at process optimisation, talent acquisition, addressing technical debt, or adhering to legislative requirements. 


While distinct from the organisation's primary objectives, these elements are vital to a holistic IT strategy, ensuring the IT department's resilience and adaptability.


Collaborative Strategy Formation


Creating an IT service strategy is not an insular activity but a collaborative venture, so treat it as such.


It demands engagement with key organisational stakeholders to ensure the strategy reflects shared visions and goals. 


This collaborative process enriches the strategy with diverse perspectives and fosters a sense of ownership and alignment across the organisation, mitigating the risks of resistance and misinterpretation.


Suppose you don't share the strategy's formation and review with the team, delivering against it until it is finalised. In that case, you risk alienating the team and not having the buy-in that its execution will require for success.


Workshop, engage, and solicit feedback and input from your team, customers, and executives. They'll have great ideas and see things from multiple perspectives, enabling you to build a well-rounded strategy. 


Championing Continuous Improvement




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The ethos of continuous improvement is a critical underpinning of any successful IT service strategy.


Embrace a mindset of perpetual evolution, regularly assessing performance, soliciting feedback, and leveraging data-driven insights to refine and enhance IT services.


A cyclical process of review and refinement is instrumental in ensuring that the IT strategy remains relevant, responsive, and aligned with current and emerging business needs.


Example: Toyota's Kaizen Approach


  • Although not a traditional IT example, numerous organisations have applied Toyota's Kaizen approach to continuous improvement in IT service strategies. Companies can ensure that their IT services remain aligned with changing business needs and technological advancements by regularly assessing performance, soliciting feedback, and making incremental improvements.

Metrics and Measurement

To ensure your IT service strategy delivers on its promises, it's crucial to establish benchmarks, measure success, and adjust strategies based on performance data. This cycle of evaluation and refinement is key to achieving operational excellence and strategic alignment.


Setting Benchmarks

Start by defining clear, achievable benchmarks aligned with your strategic objectives. Benchmarks should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART). For example, if your goal is to improve customer satisfaction, a benchmark might be to achieve a customer satisfaction score (CSAT) of 90% within 12 months.


  • Identify Critical Success Factors (CSFs): Determine what critical success factors will drive the success of your IT service strategy. This might include metrics like system uptime, incident response times, or user adoption rates.

  • Baseline Current Performance: Understand your current performance levels to set realistic benchmarks. This baseline will serve as your point of comparison as you measure progress.


Measuring Success

With benchmarks in place, the next step is to measure your strategy's success against them. This involves collecting data, analysing performance, and interpreting the results in the context of your strategic goals.


  • Choose the Right Metrics: Select metrics that accurately reflect the performance and impact of your IT services. These can be divided into quantitative metrics (e.g., downtime incidents and help desk response times) and qualitative metrics (e.g., user satisfaction surveys).

  • Use a Balanced Scorecard: Implement a balanced scorecard approach to capture a holistic view of IT performance across different dimensions, such as financial performance, customer satisfaction, internal processes, and learning and growth.

  • Leverage Technology: Utilise IT service management (ITSM) tools and business intelligence platforms to gather and analyse data. These tools can provide dashboards and reports that offer insights into performance trends and areas for improvement.

Adjusting Strategies Based on Performance Data


The actual value of metrics and measurement lies in your ability to use the data to inform strategic decisions. This adaptive approach ensures your IT service strategy remains relevant and practical.


  • Review and Reflect: Regularly review performance data to assess whether your IT services meet the benchmarks. This review should involve key stakeholders and be an opportunity for open discussion about the data's implications.

  • Identify Areas for Improvement: Use the data to pinpoint areas where performance is lagging or where opportunities for enhancement exist. This might involve addressing technical issues, reallocating resources, or revising processes.

  • Iterate and Evolve: Make informed adjustments to your IT service strategy based on your findings. This could mean setting new benchmarks, revising objectives, or implementing new initiatives to address gaps.


Optimising Project and Portfolio Management


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Establishing robust project and portfolio management practices is indispensable in navigating the confluence of business and technology.


These practices are the linchpins in delivering integrated technological and business transformations, supported by skilled professionals and solid governance frameworks. They ensure that resources are judiciously allocated, focusing on initiatives that promise the highest impact, thereby driving the strategic agenda forward.


This can be an easy win if you don't already have robust and mature demand and business change management processes.


Cultivating a Digital-First Mindset


Ensure the strategy considers solutions offering enhanced accessibility and streamlined operations to cater to the expectations of a digitally savvy customer base and workforce. 


A digital-first approach in your IT service strategy improves user experiences and catalyzes operational agility and innovation.


If there are processes in your organisation that would benefit from digitisation, then make sure your strategy is leaning into those.


Reinforcing IT Service and Supply Foundations


Providing reliable IT services and robust infrastructure is foundational to the operational success of any modern organisation. It's about investing in comprehensive IT support, enhancing service management capabilities, and fostering effective collaborations. 


Such efforts ensure the seamless availability of digital services, enabling the workforce to operate optimally and supporting the organisation's strategic objectives.


Leveraging Technology for Innovation


In the rapidly evolving digital ecosystem, leveraging technology for innovation is imperative. IT service strategies should transcend the mere maintenance of existing services to explore and implement cutting-edge technologies.


This proactive stance enhances operational efficiency and unlocks new avenues for business growth and customer engagement.


Conclusion: IT Service Strategy Best Practices


The journey to crafting an effective IT service strategy is complex and rewarding. 


It requires a nuanced understanding of the organisation's goals, a commitment to continuous improvement, and a strategic technology deployment. 


By adhering to these guiding principles, IT leaders can forge strategies that align with business objectives and drive innovation and operational excellence. 


The ability to adapt and evolve IT service strategies will delineate successful organisations, enabling them to harness the full potential of their IT capabilities for sustainable growth and competitive advantage.





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