A new IT vision and mission

Again and again during the past 12 months, I've had clients tell me that they are rewriting their IT vision and mission statements. Good! Far too many of those documents are dispiriting pablum that no one can remember anyway.

Vision statements are about what you want your IT group to be in the future. They aren't about who you are today. They need to be short and memorable and leave lots of room for each member of the department to make the vision his own through what he himself does.

Most of the IT vision statements I've seen lately are still stuck on making the IT department "utility central". Let's understand something here: running a great utility service is not particularly inspiring -- and it's firmly rooted in the present.

The 1990s were about choosing a strategy: would you be operationally efficient (the utility vision), customer-service-focused or a product innovator? In the 2000s, both business and IT need to be all three simultaneously.

So, how are those few writers of IT vision statements who aren't still stuck on the utility model addressing the future? I'm seeing phrases such as, "We enable the business we need to be." Look at all the visionary ideas packed into eight simple words. "Enable" means that technology is not a solution looking for a problem, but something brought to a dialogue with others to devise a solution. "Business" points to a stake in the success of the enterprise itself: IT refusing to accept backroom status. The phrase "we need to be" makes IT a part of the company's competitive stance. It speaks to IT's integration into the life of the business, from first idea to delivery, as well as the need for the IT department to think more in business terms in the way it operates. Two outcomes of this are an excellent utility for services and excellent customer service to everyone using those services.

Mission statements, too, are fairly bland in most cases and are often far too long.

If vision statements are about what we want to be, mission statements are about the paths we take to get there.

Retiring tired old vision and mission statements is a good thing. Living up to a good new one is the path to greatness. What's your path to greatness? Tell Sandra_Rosi@idg.com.au

Bruce Stewart is a former CEO and onetime senior VP and director of executive services at Meta and is now an executive adviser

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