An IT Strategy that Supports Business Growth
What should be in an IT plan and budget
When it comes to technology plans and budgets, IT teams guide the tangible IT tools and hardware like computers, switches, servers, firewalls, and software like Office 365. Most internal and outsourced IT providers put their focus here, but that feels reactive and outdated. Before we get into budgeting, let’s take a step back and define technology first.
Technology is everything in your company that provides voice, data, print, or information. It is all the business specific software programs used to enter and retrieve information, all the machines that are programmed to serve a specific function, and all the services like phone, internet, cloud too. All of this must work in tandem together to optimize your team’s productivity. There are technical and workflow implications to all technology that significantly degrade the productivity of your team when best practices are not followed.
With this new definition for technology, take a look at your technology plan and budget that IT isn’t guiding. A reactive plan leaves this important part out—a proactive plan encompasses all technology.
The cost of ineffective IT planning
Now that we have explored why IT planning must include all technology, let's dive into the cost of ineffective IT planning.
First, making technology purchases you don’t need.
We’ve all seen this scenario: a purchase is made and somewhere along the way, during or after implementation, the purchase is scrapped. The cost and investment didn’t turn out. This is by far the easiest to see.
Common reasons for making poor purchasing choices:
- The solution didn’t meet the intended need.
- Users reject the change from lack of training, planning, or management.
- The cost of product adoption and to integrate with other programs was too high to sustain.
- The purchase was nearsighted, thinking replacement instead of big picture and seeing the whole technology landscape while identifying a solution.
Second, over paying for technology solutions (like business applications).
Business applications are just one example of technology solutions that are priced based on the value they can deliver. So the delta in cost for applications that seemingly serve similar purposes can easily add another zero to price tags, turning a price of$10,000 to $100,000. Watch out for solutions that look to be right long-term, but up charge you for each additional piece of functionality your team needs.
Common reasons for purchasing the wrong business applications :
- Lack of training and understanding of the solution.
- Lack of initiative on adopting more of the product to solve additional business needs.
- Fear of additional changes, company culture may not be innovative or doesn’t handle change well.
Third, the need to customize to align with current processes.
Every technology change is an investment that must hold a tangible return. A successful change must be seen in company process and productivity.
Let’s use business applications as our example again. The best business apps are written for your specific industry. They have spent more hours in R&D learning about your industry than any one company ever will. In doing so they have discovered common problems and defined how to most efficiently work in your type of business. With that knowledge created software to streamline your operations. Yet too often SMBs feel the need to customize their applications or reports, which comes at a heavy cost not jut one time but on-going.
Common reasons for application and report customization:
- The business application is too generic, it wasn’t created for your business
- Trying to fit the new application into your old way of doing business instead of adopted new processes. Being resistance to change, this is the way the process has always been done.
- When you’re a programmer everything can be a custom written application, when you’re a report writer everything can be a custom report. They can so they do and at the same time it builds additional job security for them.
How to effectively IT plan
Business and technology are ever-changing — your IT plan should too. The fact is, technology today helps make every other function in your business more effective and efficient, which also increases the revenue each employee can support. Consider these key points when IT planning:
You need an IT leader that understands your business and technology strategically. Not a manager or director but a Chief Information Officer (CIO).
The CIO needs to be strategically guiding and directing all things technology. Hardware, software, business applications, and services all need to work in tandem together for your business.
The CIO should hold recurring IT steering meetings with all functional leaders of the business. Evaluating the existing IT plan against the changing business needs, to ensure they are still the top priorities and identify new business needs to explore in the future.
IT plan initiatives need to be quantified in business terms. For example, hours they could save the business a month, or the revenue at risk.
New productivity initiatives to further support your business plan should be provided by the CIO based on their analysis of how each function works.
New business plan risk should be presented based on in-depth analysis of your current technology footprint outside of IT best practices.