When you consider what long-term organizational strategic planning is, it involves identifying where the organization wants to be in three to five years. With agile, often looking that far into the future is not part of the game plan. So, what does this mean for an organization trying to plan out their next three to five-year growth? The question could be as simple as certain applications that they want to grow or enhance, or as complex as the entire infrastructure and disaster recovery replacements.
In the past, organizations I have had the pleasure of working for usually have strategic planning meetings at a minimum once per year. During these meetings the organization looks at where they are on their three to five-year roadmap and often determines the steps to complete items or things that may need to change on that roadmap. One of the struggles that organizations now face is when making an Agile transition frequently they forget about how that will also change their strategic planning for the future. Some things that organizations do is change their planning cycle to every six months, but this can completely remove the organization from a long-term strategic plan unless these mini-sessions become part of the bigger planning sessions.
In looking at some ways where an organization could potentially still accomplish long-term strategic planning, and depending on how the organization is structured, there may be a few or many options. In this article we will look at just a few of these options. The first, and possibly the simplest option, is to look at it from an application development perspective. Whether the application is home grown or purchased an organization should still be able to identify future functionality that they would be looking for in that application. By keeping the decision-making at the application level however, one needs to remember to include any potential infrastructure changes that may also need to be required. With this it is possible to still look out one to three years.
From a financial planning perspective this also needs to be looked at differently. Instead of planning at a project level the plan must be done at a team level with at least a basic understanding of what the team should be able to accomplish within that period of time. You also have to remember that specific functionality priorities may change throughout the sprints of that application. Along with the team financial planning you still need to remember any potential cost of infrastructure needs.
Many organizations still use a SWOT analysis to help identify long-term strategic plans. This can still be done in an Agile environment when you are looking at it from an application perspective. Each organization is aware of what applications are there strongest, and what weaknesses they also have in applications. This can help identify where the finances should be applied into what teams. When looking at more complex initiatives such as putting in a new data center or moving a data center, there are many aspects that must be considered. Not only do you have the team time to consider, but you also need to look at the cost of any hardware, software, physical building, or cloud type costs that would be associated with these moves. When doing this also consider that the applications themselves may also have to move depending on whether you are physically moving servers or whether you are purchasing new servers or cloud space that the applications will move to.
Long-term strategic planning can still be accomplished in an Agile or mixed environment, it just takes thinking about how to do that to change. Many of the aspects are still the same when you think about resources and hardware or software, but primarily the timeframe of that strategic planning must change. Instead of planning the purchase of the servers in year one and the moves of the applications in year two the organization may consider the purchase of a server and the move of a few applications at a time and do this in iterations. Eventually all servers would be purchased, and all applications would be moved but the planning behind it has changed. Ultimately the questions remain the same: what is it we are wanting to do; is there a time that this needs to be completed by; and then finally figuring out how you are going to get there.
If you were to search the Internet there are several templates available, and when I actually did a search for the impact of Agile on long-term organizational strategic planning, it returned over 2.5 million results. For me, the key is to identify the purpose of your strategic planning; identify how it may need to change; and how this will impact or affect any financial aspects within the organization.
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Author, Speaker, Project / Program / PMO Thought Leader
Over 20 years project management experience with a passion for helping organizations grow their PMO, their project managers, and their teams. My passion has taken me to the pursuit of a Doctor of Education, as I enjoy seeing the proverbial light bulb come on. I am a believer in continuous growth and improvement, and believe that an organizations culture and environment is what drives the growth of PMOs and all areas, and not the other way around.