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In managing expectations, planning means the art of anticipating your customer's next move. Woe to the IT manager blindsided by a key customer who announces one day that he's going to consolidate 12 warehouses into 3 during the next 6 months, or is doubling the size of his organization in the next 60 days. We're continually amazed by the number of IT managers and CIOs who have no idea where their business is headed or how to respond when it takes a sharp turn. This is a recipe for disaster, because the last thing you want is to be on the critical path to business success. Pressures and "assistance" from upper management can ruin even the best IT shop.

How can you prevent these kinds of disasters?

Understand your business and your industry. Read the trade press and understand the forces that are acting on your industry. Listen to your internal customers, learn their plans and concerns, and find out what keeps them up at night. This sounds sophomoric and preachy, but many companies don't involve their IT departments as an element of their business planning. Non-integrated IT can become a bottleneck. Through planning, however, you can meet customer expectations and become strategically valuable to your business.

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