Strategic vs. Tactical - How much of Each Do You Do?

  • So if you had to divide the tasks you do into those 2 categories, which one gets the most attention, and what is the percentage breakdown?

    I don't know about you, but it feels like more and more the strategic stuff suffers because of tactical issues getting in the way. What do you do to make time for strategic stuff so you don't have 80 hour work weeks?

  • To be perfectly honest, I don't know what the difference is...

  • Is strategic more planning ahead and tactical more reactionary?

  • @ajstringham said:

    Is strategic more planning ahead and tactical more reactionary?

    Tactical is more day-to-day type stuff (break / fix) while strategic is larger scale projects like planning ERP system upgrades, server migrations, moving to VOIP, getting a new office online, deciding how to roll out new software, etc.

  • Service Provider

    That's a good question and I think that you will find that the answers vary wildly. In the SMB space, the focus is on the tactical. Often there is very little strategic to be done. There is always some, but in any environment the majority of work is always tactical. But in larger environments there is a place for strategists to exist who do solely that.

    I'm probably 2:1 strategy to tactical. I keep my hands dirty, so to speak, with tactical stuff to help to understand the strategic.

  • Service Provider

    @ajstringham said:

    Is strategic more planning ahead and tactical more reactionary?

    The ideas come from the battlefield. The strategist is the "general" (might be a colonel or whatever) who lays out the game plan to be executed. It is the big picture "thinking ahead" portion.

    The tactical troops have to go in and execute that strategy but once the battle starts things come up that were not expected or situations change. That thinking on their feet and making in the moment decisions is tactics.

    In the Navy, for example, an admiral would do almost nothing but strategy. But a SEAL would do effectively nothing but tactics. Each is trained for something different. No admiral has the tactical skills of a SEAL, but not SEAL has the strategy of an admiral.

  • @ajstringham said:

    Is strategic more planning ahead and tactical more reactionary?

    More that strategic is large scale planning. Tactical is in the moment decision making. Neither describes actual implementation. For example, an L0 or L1 desk will rarely do either.

  • Service Provider

    Strategy: Planning the deployment of a new set of desktops and a new desktop OS. Determining and assigning goals and priorities.

    Tactical: Finding deployment issues as you go with the imaging system not doing what was expected and needed to find a fix or an alternative approach. Doing some sort of triage to determine what matters most and getting those things done. Working to meet goals and priorities without exactly following the initial plan.

    Implementation: Making the decisions above actually take place.

  • I shoot for a 50/50 ratio - half my day working on day to day tactical stuff, and the other half on strategic projects and planning. When that ratio skews too high on the tactical side then I know I need more resources.

  • Service Provider

    I don't worry about ratio too much. So much of it has to do with job role. Some people always do one, some the other, many a mix and many neither.

  • Interesting. Thanks for explaining!

  • @NetworkNerd Same 50 / 50 here too. A lot of the tactical stuff I have done since January was putting things in place to be able to position for implementing a strategy.

  • I'm fairly lucky. I was able to redo our infrastructure from the bottom up... This allowed me to spend a significant amount of time on the strategic stuff to better handle the tactical stuff.

    I probably spend anywhere from 70-80% on strategic activities (I throw education and research in this as well) in a day. Then the remainder is spent doing tactical help desk stuff.

  • Service Provider

    I am all but 100% tactical at the moment. Once I get these part timers up and working on some of my basics, I will handle a few more higher level fires then finally get into some strategic.

  • I see strategy as more 'what are your goals?' and tactics as 'how will you achieve those goals?'.

    So strategy might be "we need to collaborate more" and as a result tactical might be 'we need to implement Sharepoint".

    I was recently asked to give a presentation to our CEO on what our "IT Strategy" is. I basically refused on the grounds that IT Strategy is really just a response to "Company Strategy" and I wasn't made party to what our company strategy is. I was kind of "you tell me what the company strategy is, or what the business plan is, and I'll tell you how we can use IT to achieve it".

    Too often I think IT departments work in isolation to the general business plan. They're off implementing Exchange, or ERP, or Sharepoint without asking 'how does this help meet the short to medium term goals of the company", or "how will this make the company more profitable". So they implement technology based on how the company is currently setup, blind to the fact that companies are dynamic things - they're constantly changing, expanding, retracting, moving into new markets, moving out of old markets. Without the vision, IT is always playing catchup to what the company is trying achieve tomorrow.

    So I'd say I leave strategy to the CEO, and I only do tactics. As managers we know what our company looks like today, and we know what are weaknesses and strengths are today, but we have no idea what our company will look like in five years time. Only the CEO has (or should have) that vision of how he sees the company developing.

    But what strategy I do do, I probably do it lying in bed at 3am unable to sleep. That's when most of my long term planning takes place, unfortunately. That's when my "vision" seems to be at its most clear.


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