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What to Read: IT Strategy/Issus and Practices Third Edition

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April 04, 2016
What to Read
John Wimmer

What's On the Bookshelf
Over the years, we’ve had numerous conversations with industry leaders and often one of the topics that we discuss is the latest book read. We thought it would be fun to share some of these booklover conversations with our readers. Here are what our industry leaders are reading.

IT Strategy/Issus and Practices Third Edition
By James McKeen and Heather Smith

[Review by John Wimmer, Chief Information Officer at Xanterra Parks & Resorts]

While I do read books on my own time for pure entertainment and enjoyment, I also read a number of books on information technology to help improve my skills and to keep current with technology trends for my role at Xanterra Parks & Resorts. A couple of years ago I also became an adjunct professor at The University of Denver and started teaching a class in IT strategy as a part of the MBA program at the Daniels Business School.  As a result, I’ve started to focus on reading books on the topic of IT strategy. IT Strategy/Issues and Practices is one I’ve found valuable for both teaching in class as well as my role at Xanterra.
While the book is a text book by nature, I believe it can be a strong asset for anyone who is an information technology leader for several reasons.  For one example, we’ve all developed our own skillset and style concerning how we approach IT strategy and the development of an IT strategic plan for our organization.  While many of us have learned our approach in different ways and find these approaches effective (i.e., mentors, our own formal education, etc.), I have found that reviewing more formal approaches is extremely helpful since they both reinforce areas where our approach is strong and also help us identify areas where our approach needs improvement.  I’ve read several books on the topic and found all of them to have unique and helpful ideas, but I’ve found this book to be the most informative and pertinent in improving this process.
In particular, I found the book’s review of the following information extremely beneficial:

  • Approach to the IT value proposition – While most of us already focus on the IT value proposition and how we can better engage and align with our company’s vision and goals, this book provides a distinctive vantage point and puts these aspects of IT strategy into a unique perspective.
  • IT business metrics – Many IT leaders struggle with finding metrics which help show senior management your value and effectiveness for the organizations. While I haven’t found a magic formula to address this need myself, I have found this book’s approach to IT business metrics and how IT should focus on BUSINESS metrics to measure their impact both unique and impactful. Parts of the book focus on how you can mitigate the lack of meaningful metrics by improving communication with business leaders and how to build strong relationships with other key members of the organization to improve your ability to understand what is needed by the company and how you can make a larger impact.
  • I personally found the sections on IT governance (shared services, budgeting, management frameworks, risk management, etc.) to be the most helpful and enlightening section of this book. These were areas where my approach was perhaps the weakest but I believe anyone in a senior management IT position would also find this information valuable.
  • While I did not find the section of IT innovation that interesting or informative, I found its coverage of IT portfolio management extremely comprehensive. The approach to managing IT demand as well as the creation of an IT roadmap made a very difficult and complex topic easier to understand. This section provided some structure to a process which at times can be difficult to manage and control.

Overall, I considered this read to be both informative and entertaining considering the information being covered. I have not only found it useful for my class at The University of Denver but I’ve also continued to leverage it to improve the IT strategic planning process I use daily at Xanterra. I would recommend this book for anyone who is in an IT senior management position or anyone who plays a role in the development of an organization’s IT strategic plan.
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