Integrating Technology into Strategic Planning

Article excerpt

Chess players often rely on heir knowledge of what has been actually tried, the probability of its success (or failure), and are continually alert to new actions, incorporating this information into their next move. They may take a risk with an untried method or stick to one or more methods that have proven to be successful in the past. This strategy is similar to planning for the use of technology in information services.

There can be opportunity or danger in the unknown and unseen. Think about the use of technology as portrayed in some science fiction television shows. What may seem to be empty space to the inhabitants of a spaceship may actually be an area filled with information (i.e. another spaceship) "cloaked" or hidden from view. Being aware that such information may exist and being prepared to deal with it is critical, whether it is actually encountered or not.

Similarly, it is necessary to develop a strategy for information services to also anticipate technology as yet unavailable or easily seen as applicable to current and future needs.

Successful technology application for information services is based on its fit to actual needs, as well as realistic expectations of what can be accomplished using technology. The way to achieve this is through proper strategic planning. This includes an assessment of current resources and future needs as part of the development of a strategic plan to incorporate technology into information services.

Strategic planning for technology can be applied to units within Special Libraries Association (SLA), Washington, DC (herein referred to as "the association") and other associations as well as the workplace. Therefore, suggestions on applying the strategy planning principles to chapters, divisions, and other units of the association will be discussed in this article as deemed appropriate.

SUPPORT FROM THE TOP

Development of a strategic plan for technology begins with getting full support from appropriate senior management within the unit or entire organization, preferably the highest level executive such as the president. The support should be in the form of appointment of a team to develop the strategic technology plan and appropriation of resources needed to complete the plan. This sets the stage for obtaining resources to implement the plan when it is completed. It also strengthens the ability to gain cooperation among units within the organization to develop and implement the plan, often called "buy in".

In the case of the association, the mandate and direction typically comes from a unit's governing board, with help and added support from the SLA Board of Directors and SLA headquarters staff.

THE STRATEGIC TECHNOLOGY PLAN TEAM

The next step is to convene the team charged with developing a strategic technology plan. The members should be comprised of individuals from across the institution or organization. Members of the team should include, for example, decisionmakers from areas which are part of the information services infrastructure, such as the library, records management, data processing, as well as senior management or administration (in the case of an educational institution). There should also be appropriate representatives from departments that are served by the library or information services center, such as faculty or researchers. Technology awareness and use, as well as expectations, can be found in varying degrees throughout the organization and this is the best way to include a variety of expertise and knowledge.

This approach, while sometimes difficult to achieve, can serve to engender mutual understanding and respect, as well as form the basis for alliances with other areas within the organization. Participation in the planning process by these members ensures that the technology plan coincides with the mission and goals of the organization as a whole, takes advantage of resources throughout the institution, and meets the needs of the information services' constituents. …