What is strategy?
If you were to choose a word from the business dictionary that conveys the most power or importance, it would probably be strategy. Every executive recognizes that a good strategy is essential for success. But surprisingly, only a few could define it with any level of precision.
I have been fortunate to work with 100's of IT professionals in this area and come to understand some of the biggest misconceptions in the world of strategy. In this book, we will of course explain what is meant by strategy. We use the dictionary definition and a slightly extended one, based on common sense. Contrary to popular belief, creating a strategy is dead simple. It is creating a good one that is difficult. So we also discuss the real points of emphasis that will move a strategy from being good enough, to being very good.
Finally, of course, this book is about IT strategy rather than strategy in general. We are assuming that you are an IT professional who is interested in the essence of creating good IT strategy. You therefore probably work in the IT department, most likely of a larger company. You therefore need to create an IT strategy that meets the needs and priorities of the business. To this end, we spend the first part of this book describing the important aspects of developing a business strategy so that not only can you converse with your colleagues in the rest of the business, but you will also be able to involve them in creating a high quality IT strategy.
Definitions of strategy
The word strategy can be very confusing. Different people use it to mean slightly different things. It is sometimes used to mean a major activity as in "one of our strategies is to implement SharePoint." Sometimes it is used to express a future outcome such as "our strategy is to increase our international market share." We even hear some managers use it to mean "very important" as in "I am working on a strategic project for the board." Each of these uses is slightly erroneous. It is not an activity or an outcome, but in fact a combination of both, specifically:
Strategy (n) - A plan to achieve a long-term aim
The word strategy comes from the Greek strategos (plural strategoi; Greek στρατηγ?ς) meaning "army leader" or "general". The derivation of the word helps us to understand the modern dictionary definition. It is really important to grasp both components. So, at the risk of repeating myself, strategy has a long term aim and (very importantly) a plan to get there.
To make the definition more applicable to business and IT strategy, I suggest the following amended version (reference, FastTrack Strategy, David McKean1) as follows.
Strategy - Defining the best future for your organization, mapping the route to achieve it and communicating it clearly to the organization.