Your Business Strategy Needs An IT Strategy Too
You are a Small to Medium sized Enterprise (SME).
You have developed your Business Growth Strategy.
In doing so you have identified your sales, profits and cost targets. You have budgeted for recruitment and training, and possibly for new premises for additional staff or expanding operations. Your Financial Director or Accountant has confirmed that sufficient finance is available or can be obtained to fund the growth ambitions of the business.
You have, in essence, also signed-off your Sales, Marketing, Operations and HR strategies that underpin your Business Growth Strategy.
However, have you considered the IT Infrastructure your business will need to support this growth?
Have you developed an IT Strategy aligned with your other vertical strategies aimed at contributing to your business goals?
More often than not, IT is considered a commodity. Buy it ‘off the shelf’ as and when required. Buy extra storage space after you have exhausted your current quotas. Buy an additional licence for each new recruit or stretch the concurrent licences your business has.
IT occasionally is viewed as something that simply is a black box in a corner; that houses customer data, sends and receives emails and generates the customer invoices.
Smart business owners or executives recognise that IT is one of the key enablers to business growth and success and thereby a critical resource. Suitably IT enabled businesses can:
- Advance customer-focussed growth
- Accelerate innovation and competitive advantage
- Simplify Business processes and improve workflow
- Improve information and communication flows
- Reduced overheads
- Motivate staff
A Method To Develop An IT Strategy?
Digital and data-driven IT models increasingly adopt Agile methods, but there is a case for traditional approaches which:
- Analyse the Sales, Marketing, Operations, HR, Finance and other vertical strategies supporting the business goals.
- Analyse the capabilities of the current technologies in place to support these strategies.
- Identify where and what new, upgraded or additional technologies will be required to further support the vertical functional strategies and business goals – Paying particular attention not only to the hardware/software/network/telephony requirements but also to the high-level data requirements as well as cyber security
- Design and plan for the procurement, implementation and technical support of the technologies within the timeframes needed to enable the vertical strategies to deliver their capabilities in supporting the business goals – ideally avoiding multi-year implementation projects.
Outsourced Your IT?
Many SMEs are beginning to outsource their IT requirements to specialist IT Providers who deliver, install, configure and support the infrastructure adopted by the business. Some of these IT Providers are migrating their customers onto Cloud based solutions where essentially the clients access their systems and data through third party infrastructure located at data centres across the country.
Although outsourcing IT is a strategic Business decision, an IT Strategy is nevertheless required.
The key here is to ensure the IT Provider of choice is engaged early on in the formulation of your IT Strategy. Ideally the IT Provider will have individuals who are skilled and experienced in understanding business goals and translating them into technology requirements – working with their technical staff to design and implement the appropriate solutions.
Alternatively, SME businesses opt to engage business consultants or coaches who are deeply experienced and adept at delivering both business and IT strategies and then being the conduit for the Business to the IT Provider.
Measure and Monitor
Here we are not discussing the measurement and monitoring of the ‘health’ of the IT assets (such as server uptime, network uptime or application response times), important as they are. Rather we are examining those metrics that help measure and monitor how effective the IT Strategy is towards the business achieving its goals.
To do this effectively, we must look at the IT Strategy from the business user perspective:
- Are the applications increasingly intuitive
- Are users having to access or change duplicate data (for example different instances and spellings of customer details)
- How easier is it to complete a business transaction or function (for example setting up a new customer)
- Usability and portability of IT devices
- Propensity for data or information breaches
- Volume of IT related service tickets (technical issues requiring intervention and solution from IT Providers and Vendors)
- Achievement of projected Business Case cost/benefits
Whilst this has been a simple overview of why an IT Strategy is a key component of the establishing and contributing to the overall business goals, it is important for businesses to recognise that:
- IT and IT resources are key enablers to the business – not merely commodities.
- A structured approach is required to identify the gaps and required IT capabilities to support the various business functions and business goals.
- Communication and Collaboration with IT Providers for inhouse or outsourced solutions is important – use independent experienced skilled resources if none exist in-house.
- Use metrics to measure and monitor the business IT users satisfaction with the IT Infrastructure.
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