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Aligning the Information Function with Organizational Goals

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Ideally, information professionals will be involved in the strategic planning process for the entire organization. The process is most straightforward if it is a top-down initiative, with detailed instructions provided to each business unit about how the strategic plan is to be completed so that there is consistency in the vision and objectives. Input from all business units should then fit into an umbrella plan developed by the executive team. In this scenario, information professionals will provide background information on what is happening in the industry and markets served by the organization and help formulate plans for providing timely, actionable information to the organization on an ongoing basis.

If a company does not have a formal strategic planning process, information professionals should still develop a strategic plan to conceptualize and guide how information services will be delivered in the present and the future in their organizations. The plan should then be widely disseminated so that a clear understanding of the strategic direction of the information center is established throughout the organization.

SLA's recently revised professional competencies note that the information professional "aligns the information organization with, and is supportive of, the strategic directions of the parent organization or of key client groups through partnerships with key stakeholders and suppliers." Today's most successful information centers are those that have assumed responsibility for making sure their goals and initiatives are aligned with those of the parent organization.


Creating a Strategic Plan--FAQ

What is the benefit to having a strategic plan?

The strategic planning exercise forces us to define the core values of our organization and key business activities required for meeting strategic objectives. The planning process is a time to brainstorm, to share knowledge about events and activities that impact the business and to think creatively about the future. If the process is initiated at the executive level and then carried down to departments and business units throughout the organization, the resulting document becomes a unified plan of action that everyone in the company understands and uses for business decision-making. Department managers can work with their employees to develop individual performance objectives that roll up to departmental objectives and these roll up to corporate strategic objectives. Communicated properly, the strategic plan gives departments and employees a common vision of the business, where it is going and how it is going to get there.

Where do I start if I want to create a strategic plan?

Look within your organization first to determine if there is a strategic planning process in place. The strategic planning or corporate planning department in your company may provide you with a template to follow. If not, your colleagues in the marketing department should be able to advise you about how this activity is dealt with in your company. Annual reports frequently refer to major initiatives in the strategic plan and can help you think through the part of your plan dealing with how objectives of the library or information center are aligned with corporate objectives.

Who can help me prepare a strategic plan if this is the first time one is being written?

Consider reaching out to colleagues in other departments who have this kind of experience to find a mentor for writing your plan. If the budget allows, you might consider hiring a consultant to facilitate the planning process. It is challenging to hire a consultant to create the complete strategic plan for your organization since they typically do not have the inside knowledge of the organization that the library or information center personnel possess. However, it will be effective to have a consultant facilitate the session(s) in which you work with your staff to generate ideas, discuss opportunities, and set priorities to be incorporated into the plan. Some fresh, objective ideas might be interjected with this outside facilitation. You don't have to achieve perfection with your first attempt to write a strategic plan, so you might do some background reading and launch out on your own--armed with your knowledge of the company, the industry, relevant information resources and awareness of trends in information delivery and use.

What is the time frame covered by a strategic plan?

Some organizations have abandoned or given less attention to a rigorous long-range strategic planning process in the past few years due to the rapid pace of change in business and in technology. These organizations have found that long-range strategic plans (five or more years) do not materialize due to business changes, environmental changes, or technology changes they had not anticipated when the plans were written. Strategic plans typically give major emphasis to a one-year time span, and may include high-level two-to five-year plans.

What are basic components of a strategic plan?

Peter Drucker suggests three simple questions that must be answered in a strategic plan:

* What is the business?

* What will it be?

* What should it be?

The strategic plan frequently includes a mission statement, followed by goals, objectives and strategies. Performance indicators may be included for each goal. Goals are written statements that describe the direction or activity that will lead to improvement in organizational performance and business success. Goals are not necessarily quantitative. Objectives determine more specific, measurable, and achievable standards that define success or failure. Strategies are action steps. These are typically fleshed out in more detail, with allocation of financial and personnel resources, in the operating plan. Performance indicators are used to measure success of objectives highlighted. This structure is not set in stone and can be modified to reflect specific organizational environments. See the sample strategic plan in this unit for further ideas.

What is the difference between a strategic plan and an operating plan?

The operating plan is much more tactical, focusing



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