In the case of IT planning, different methods may be employed at different stages. The scenario approach to planning is widely popular among business/IT professionals. It helps in considering alternate options. In this approach, teams of managers and other planners participate in what management author Peter Senge calls virtual world exercises or microworld exercises. A microworld is a simulation exercise that is a microcosm of the real world. In a microworld exercise, managers can safely create, experience, and evaluate a variety of scenarios of what might be happening or what might happen in the real world.
IT professionals create exercises based on assumptions on what the field would be like three or five years into the future and the role that information technology can or will play in those future scenarios. Alternative scenarios are created by the teams or by business simulation software based on combining a variety of developments, trends, and environmental factors, including political, social, business, and technological changes that might occur. This scenario approach is unique in the sense it involves “designing scenarios so managers can question their own model of reality and change it when necessary.”
If the IT planning involves a large project or an innovative one, it is best to use a strategic opportunities mix. A strategic opportunities matrix helps to evaluate the strategic risk/payoff potential of proposed business/IT opportunities. Strategic business/IT planning involves an evaluation of the potential benefits and risks a company faces when using IT-based strategies and technologies for competitive advantage. Also popular in strategic business/IT planning is the use of a strategic opportunities matrix to evaluate the strategic potential of proposed business/IT opportunities, as measured by their risk/payoff probabilities.
If there are many opportunities to be considered in IT planning, SWOT (Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis can be used to evaluate the impact that each one of them. A company’s strengths are its core competencies and resources in which it is one of the markets or industry leaders. Weaknesses are areas of substandard business performance compared to others in the industry or market segments. Opportunities are the potential for new business markets or innovative breakthroughs that might greatly expand markets. Threats are the potential for business and market losses posed by the actions of competitors and other competitive forces, changes in government policies, disruptive new technologies, and so on. By analyzing the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of every opportunity, it is possible to choose the best plan during IT planning.