How to Build a Great IT Strategy
Creating a strong IT strategy becomes a more and more vital part of any successful business every year. Now more than ever it is important to have a strong and fully supported plan for your technology. However, not many small businesses are doing this. Whether it is because they don’t know how to make a proper one or don’t think they need one, we’re here to help. Here are 5 keys needed to make a strong IT strategy.
GATHER A STRONG TEAM
The CIO (or ‘Chief Information Officer’) will more than likely be the one in charge of the plan, but that doesn’t mean that they can do the whole thing by themselves. Every department in the company needs to be involved. You need to pick people with strong interpersonal and communication skills, and that also have a passion for what’s being done. To do this, communicate to them why the plan and its components are necessary, rather than explaining what is going to be done. This will give confidence to the team members and drive for them to want to participate and be a key player.
In a small business, however, this role will often need to be outsourced. We’ve found that with the right company and with the right process, this is able to be delivered effectively as an outsourced, or virtual, CIO. Be warned, however, as I have seen many promise this kind of help, but few have been able to consistently deliver.
ALIGN PLAN WITH BUSINESS GOALS
The primary purpose of this IT strategy should be to support your business goals. In the beginning of the process, you need to take a deep look into your company and its goals and objectives. You need to plan for where your company is heading and prioritize your most important objectives. This is very important to do. Successful businesses are able to align these do plans and make both of them succeed.
Obviously, the IT plan needs to be done with the larger business plan in mind and will come out of, as well as supplement, the annual planning. You will want to ask questions of the business like: “Where is the business going?” “What is the business planning to do in the next 3 years?” Keeping technology in lock-step with the business requires diligence in planning. An effective organization, one that is dependent upon technology, will treat this plan as a two-way street. It will need to provide input on what can be done (that is the technology limitations that would provide challenges to achieve those goals) and what needs to be changed (technology life-cycle and planned investments requiring budgetary considerations). In return, the plan can best be made knowing where the business changes are going to happen and what technologically is going to be required to get it there.
SET AND STICK TO LONG TERM GOALS
A lot of companies only plan one year ahead, and do not often revisit the plan. This is a mistake. Ideally, you want to plan three years into the future. Create a long-term plan and set challenging goals to reach. When creating the plan, meetings should be set up in advance to revisit the plan and tweak goals if necessary. This is especially true considering the rapid pace technology is advancing. As time passes, people may begin to lose faith in their ability to reach these goals and begin to give less effort towards them. It’s important that you encourage your employees to continue to strive for the set goals and not give up on them. Lead by example and people will follow.
The most effective organizations are doing this on a quarterly basis and only focusing on what can realistically be done in a 13-week time frame. So often, many hopes and wishes go into goals, and long-term goals, but a quarterly pace can help this stay focused and actually move the business forward.
CREATE AN ARCHITECTURE ROADMAP
You need to create a road map for all the technological architecture in your businesses. This includes the hardware, software, and other tools you use in your business. It’s important to organize out everything into what is high-value and low-value: look at the life expectancy of the technologies and keep track of when to upgrade. Keep track of all this information and send it out to your managers. It is important to talk to your supervisory-level leaders about this using as little jargon as possible. If it’s difficult to understand people will barely give it a glance over.
MAKE SMART STRATEGIC DECISIONS, AND PLAN TO REPLACE HARDWARE
There will be times where things didn’t go as you planned in your IT strategy. That’s OK, you don’t need to panic. It’s difficult to look forward three years and that’s why you need to continue to meet frequently. It’s important to be smart when making the tough decisions down the road. Make sure you keep your business plan in mind and remember what your priorities are. Again, the quarterly pace seems to work for many successful companies who are achieving their goals.
Regarding the value of a replacement cycle, an example is that many business owners aren’t aware of the simple productivity gains that are achieved by keeping computers on a 4-year rotation cycle. The number of the hardware improvements, coupled with the increasingly growing demands on the individual machines’ processing power by increasingly hungry software, means that things are going relatively slower over time – all the time. And this of course assumes, that automation and manual maintenance of those individual machines are being performed on a regular basis. Otherwise wear and tear and other items that can slowly ‘gum up the works’ will be an even greater factor. This is just one aspect of a strong technology strategy. If you don’t get ahead of the technology cycle with planning and proactive processes, the needs of the technology tools will spoil your best efforts of being as productive as possible
The IT strategy won’t, and can’t, fix all your issues at once. You need to stay with it, and continue to work at it, if you want it to be successful. If you need an advice or help with this contact us on our website or call us at (518) 320-8906.