Faced with mounting economic challenges, businesses today are under great pressure to save money and boost profitability. These aims can be achieved in a variety of ways, from cost-cutting strategies that simplify and streamline operational expenses, to revenue enhancing initiatives that focus on productivity and increasing sales.
As more and more of our workplace processes become digitised, businesses across all sectors are becoming aware of the importance of driving value through the strategic use of IT. Yet, surprisingly few businesses have a comprehensive and coherent IT strategy in place, that considers long-term plans as well as short-term objectives.
In this mini blog series, we’re going to look at the ways you can make your IT work for your business, and harness technology as a springboard for success and sustained growth.
This all starts with careful and thorough planning. In this article, we explore how you can map out your current environment, explain the best path for creating a futureproof IT strategy designed to drive profitable growth, and how best to proceed in your digital transformation with effective preparation and implementation.
Map Out Your Current Infrastructure
Before you can begin strategizing, you first have to map out your infrastructure, so you can spot current shortcomings, vulnerabilities and opportunities. An extensive survey that encompasses both technology and businesses processes is the key to creating this technology map.
Start with the basics. Draw up an inventory of the hardware, software, networks and applications being used by your business. You may wish to seek the support of your IT support provider or a third-party IT company to help you do this. Gather together system documentation, and identify the business function(s) that each component of your environment supports.
Once your inventory is complete, start assessing the relationship between your business processes and the technology that supports them. This can be done using a Technology Capability Maturity Model (CMM). This provides a systematic method for assessing your business’s technology-related capabilities, determining how well these capabilities are managed, and identifying areas for improvement. Factors such as compliance, connectivity levels and time, should be considered within this exercise, as these are crucial elements in driving business growth and creating value.
Now that you have given thorough consideration to your business processes, the technology that supports them, and how well this technology does its job, you can start creating your infrastructure map. A business process mapping tool can be beneficial at this stage, but any carefully executed diagram that displays the interdependencies and connections in your Infrastructure will suffice. This process will help you understand the role technology plays in supporting your workflows, and identify areas where your IT may be negatively impacting them.
Now that you’ve mapped your IT infrastructure, assessed your technological maturity and considered the effect technology has on your processes, you can start creating a strategy that leverages technology for value creation and strategic gain.
Conceiving a Value-Driving Technology Strategy
A well-considered, cost-viable and realistic technology strategy can be the key to unlocking profitable value, sustained growth and a range of other business benefits. By following the steps outlined below you’ll ensure you create a technology strategy that covers all ground and truly delivers for your business.
Start by setting out what you want your technology strategy to achieve; what are its objectives? The ‘SMART’ (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound) framework can be useful in this regard, providing a set of criteria for evaluating goals and objectives. Use this framework to prioritise objectives, and subsequently, the steps you’ll take to deliver on them. That way you’ll ensure your digital transformation proceeds in a methodical, value-focussed manner.
The next step requires you to consider the tools, platforms and technologies that can be introduced to take your infrastructure from where it is now, to where you want it to be. This process is sometimes referred to as a ‘technology landscape assessment.’ This will give you a handle on the value-creating solutions available, and help you identify those that should be the top priority for implementation.
The last step in delivering your technology strategy, is to set the wheels of progress in motion, and actually start creating a deliverable plan of action. To ensure your strategy is delivered in line with expectations, consider a project management tool. Your strategy should make use of your exploratory efforts, and deliver an actionable, time-specific plan that incrementally introduces the technology and infrastructure you need to empower value creation in your business.
To make this process less daunting, break your strategy down into 6 key elements:
Identify the Projects You Want to Deliver First
Using all the insights you’ve gathered, consider which projects are required most urgently, and stand to deliver the greatest strategic value, and prioritise these for delivery. The projects you implement first don’t have to be the grandest or most ambitious. They might include adopting new software, rolling out new hardware or introducing efficiency driving solutions like business process automation, for example.
Identify Milestones and Specify Project Timelines
IT projects can unlock a range of lasting benefits, but you don’t want the projects themselves to take any longer than necessary. By identifying milestones, specifying timelines, and even setting deadlines for near-future projects, you focus the minds of everyone involved in project delivery, and ensure that progress can be monitored against identifiable reference points.
Assign Resources and Create a Task Force
Assign financial, human and infrastructural resources to the delivery of your projects, in a way that makes the most effective use of the people and other assets available to you. Be sure to align resource allocation with project timelines and milestones, to ensure the right support is deployed at the right time.
No project is completely risk-free. Examine each project, and recognize the risks present in each. Such risks might include threats to data privacy, or procedures and processes that have business continuity implications. Make reference to these risks in your individual project plans, and consider ways that each risk can be effectively mitigated.
Identify Stakeholders and Create a Communications Code of Practice
Project stakeholders include anyone that stands to benefit, or who may be otherwise affected by your project’s outcome. Common project stakeholders include executives, employees, managers, customers, partner organizations, suppliers, vendors, and in the case of large-scale, high-impact projects, the wider public. Once you’ve identified your stakeholders, create a communication strategy for each group, which identifies the channels to be used, as well as other factors like frequency of engagement and the level of insight required. Clear communication can be pivotal to the success of a project, so ensure you create comprehensive communication strategies as a priority.
Review Progress on a Continuous Basis
It’s important to continually review project progress to ensure the desired outcomes are being achieved, and to allow scope for adjustments as required. Ensure the findings of your regular reviews are communicated to key stakeholders. Keeping everyone well informed prevents miscommunications, avoids ambiguity, reduces errors, and keeps the risk of disruption to a minimum.
By creating a comprehensive technology strategy, you foster clarity of vision, and give yourself a structured pathway to implementing transformative digital changes in your business. Start creating a technology strategy for your business today, and you’ll unleash the potential of your business tomorrow, armed with the IT solutions you need to grow and capitalize on new opportunities.
Stay tuned for our next blog, where we examine the contexts in which technology can be leveraged to create value for businesses.
BCNS – Managed IT Support, Solutions and Consultancy for Devon Businesses
BCNS is a full-service IT provider, dedicated to bringing the best, tailored IT solutions to businesses across Devon. Our unrivalled knowledge and experience, combined with a commercially-aware approach to business technology, ensures your business will benefit from solutions that drive value and empower growth. From best-in-class cyber security solutions, to the cloud platforms and connectivity services you need to stay connected and productive, we’ll help you harness IT for strategic benefit across your business. Get in touch today for a friendly, no-obligation chat about your IT challenges. We’d love to hear from you.