The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic pushed many companies to embrace technology and digital infrastructure to keep doing business. Those who had already made digital investments in apps or websites had a leg up on businesses dipping their toes into digital for the first time.
These latter types of businesses found out the hard way that you can’t simply wave a magic wand and “go digital.” In mid-pandemic triage mode, they adopted solutions to treat hemorrhaging pain points, rather than support a larger IT strategy.
Now, many businesses are taking a step back and trying to envision a bigger IT picture, an approach to technology that doesn’t just keep the business alive, but helps it thrive and adapt for whatever the next normal might be.
Even if you have zero IT background, you can make a lot of progress in formulating your holistic IT strategy by following these five guidelines.
While having the right technology is highly important for any business to operate smoothly, technology itself isn’t a cure all. As a business owner or operator, you need to have clear expectations and intentions around how a new technology will impact your business. Going digital for the sake of going digital without understanding the implications will cause you issues.
Ask yourself a few questions:
What kind of technology would benefit my business most?
How will I use the technology I choose?
How will my staff use it?
Will the technology I choose be used by my clients or customers?
What problems will be solved by utilizing the right technology for my business?
How will this technology help my business?
As you learn more about technology and how it can impact your business, you will hear about machine learning, artificial intelligence (AI), and data analytics. Remember, these are tools, not strategies. Utilizing the data these tools provide will provide more clarity around your business efficiencies and inefficiencies.
Even small-to-medium sized businesses comprise at least a few business units, and these units can become siloed and disjointed, no matter how small the business is.
The business strategy starts at the top. What is your business good at, and how is it good at it?
If you can’t answer this succinctly, your first priority is to figure it out. Otherwise, your IT strategy can’t function with any firm intention or purpose—and neither can your business units. Even at a small company, they will become siloed and disjointed if everyone has a different understanding of what they are supposed to be doing.
Some business leaders expect their IT consultant or CTO to tell them what their strategy should be, but it doesn’t work like that. IT strategy follows business strategy.
When the business strategy is well-defined, business units will better understand their ole in supporting that strategy. Thus, the business can set correct and appropriate KPIs for teams within each department.
If your business units understand their function within the greater business strategy, the IT strategy can help units fulfill that function, whether through streamlining their workflow, facilitating cross-departmental communication, or putting new tools in their hands. Additionally, the IT strategy can gauge the performance of these units in the context of the greater business strategy.
But it starts at the top. Unless everyone — from the CEO to the janitor — is aligned with the overall business strategy, the business units won’t be rowing in the same direction, and the IT strategy won’t have the clarity it needs to create an impact.
The best IT strategies have specific, measurable outcomes. Unfortunately, creating clear objectives can be tricky. The Project Management Institute’s Pulse of the Profession study found that:
Defining your IT strategy will help you set measurable goals. Here’s how to get started:
What goals will you need to accomplish to enact the overall business strategy?
Specify which problems IT will focus on solving and describe how those solutions will impact the business, department-by-department.
Explain the approach IT will take in helping the business adapt for the future, such as handling increased business volume, boosting operational efficiency, predicting new market mandates and regulations, etc.
Change can be challenging, even if the entire team knows change is necessary. Your IT strategy needs to anticipate the amount of change management it will need to be successful and meet its goals. Implementing new systems takes teamwork and collaboration across departments, and not everyone in a business understands technology.
The best thing you can do is to think about the capacity of your staff for change. What will it take to help them adapt to a new system? What level of project management will it take to implement the new system? How can you build in timelines for full migration to the new system or processes?
As you develop your IT strategy, describe the IT resources it will need to achieve its goals, in terms of budget, staff, skills, and tools. This includes educating organization leaders and staff in implementing a new system, changing the culture around those processes, and training your staff to adapt successfully.
Prioritize the IT projects that will enhance the future of the business. Remember to provide tangible goals, timelines, requirements, and deliverables. Include an outline of how these projects will be managed.
It takes a village for a business to succeed, a network of vendors, partners, and consultants. Developing an IT strategy requires you to carefully choose the right partners, including strategists. While some Managed IT vendors will say they can assist with IT strategy, the truth is that you need a dedicated IT strategy team in addition to managed services.
What else can the right partner help you do?
Make use of your data.
Streamline your workflow.
Serve as a true voice at the leadership table.
Data doesn't interpret itself. At Vudu IT, we are data storytellers turn data into insights, insights into knowledge, knowledge into wisdom.
IT is more than fixing the office Wi-Fi. The digital age has shown the agility and power of technology and how the right IT team makes the difference. Vudu helps businesses use technology effectively to lower their operational costs, manage their data, and make decisions quicker.
At Vudu, we are technology wizards who want to bring IT magic to your business and achieve supernatural results. Are you working to formulate an IT strategy for your business? Tell us more about your goals.