Although strategy determines IT’s focus and direction, it’s planning that drives execution. And, despite the obvious importance of planning, very few IT organizations do it, other than to create a list of projects they hope to focus on. That’s not planning—that’s a wish list. We could argue for hours about the myriad reasons IT organizations lack a robust annual planning process, but it all comes down to needing to know how to do it, and having the discipline to do it once you know how.

In an effort to make planning less overwhelming, every month I am going to provide in this space a guide for the upcoming month. This guide will include a checklist and a set of questions that every IT leader should contemplate to be successful in 2012.

The first step to IT planning is aligning the IT calendar to the corporate calendar. If you are like most of our clients, the corporate financial calendar is based on the yearly calendar. This makes September the most critical time of the year in terms of planning for the following year’s success. Therefore, from a corporate calendar perspective (January through December), the first month in an annual planning calendar should be September.

September has begun, and, with the Labor Day holiday, we’re all probably behind schedule already. It’s time to get back to work—there is little time to be wasted. Here is where I recommend you begin:

September Theme: Alignment

To do:

Determine what 2011 projects are slipping
Ascertain what needs to happen to complete 2011 projects
Focus resources on completing those projects
Arrange for face-to-face meetings with divisional leadership. The objective is to hear and engage with each business unit regarding its objectives for 2012.
Immediately following these meetings, the IT business groups should meet and prepare a recommended plan for 2012 that includes objectives, strategies, programs, projects and estimated resource requirements.
To stimulate thinking and discussion:

What improvements / adjustments are needed to sustain your future business model and objectives?
Where are you with current operational improvement initiatives? How much more do you need to invest in these initiatives to achieve the desired outcome?
What events might affect the course of your transition?
How do you ensure alignment across all division, unit, and support functions?
What does this mean for your external partners and suppliers?
How can you utilize your extended ecosystem to its fullest?
I welcome your questions and feedback on this guide. We can all benefit from hearing about other’s issues and ideas. Happy planning!