Information technology is an important element of businesses large and small. Within many companies it is vital to everyday operations. However relatively few have, or understand the benefits of an IT strategy.
Business owners and directors will derive huge benefits in taking the time to think about what technology is required in the business, both now and in the future.
What Is An IT Strategy?
An IT Strategy is a document which outlines how IT will support the overall business strategy over a set period of time. This could be the next 12 months, or 3 or 5 years.
It might be part of the overall business strategy or plan but is often a separate document. The business strategy will outline the goals the company is looking to achieve, the IT Strategy will outline how technology will help the business achieve those goals. All departments should be involved in order to gain the biggest benefits of an IT strategy.
Why have a strategy?
As businesses grow IT infrastructure, software and applications are often added on an ad-hoc basis. The company can end up with a mis-match of operating systems, old infrastructure that runs slowly and software from multiple vendors that doesn’t work well together. Putting in place an IT Strategy can alleviate these issues and increase efficiency in the business. These are some of the areas that a strategy will help with.
Who takes responsibility
The first part of the strategy will identify individual responsibilities. This is vital both internally and externally. Relationships between businesses and IT support providers can often fail where there is confusion over who has responsibility for what. Some businesses will want their IT Service Provider to take control of IT strategy. Whilst others would rather keep the strategy part in-house, simply requiring fixes and new equipment from their provider. Regular meetings and good communication are key here.
Even if there is no outsourced element then everyone in the organisation must know what is expected of them, and who takes ultimate responsibility for IT. This should help prevent duplicity of software solutions, and unnecessary spend.
Identify duplication and potential bottlenecks
Once you’ve identified who’s responsible for what you’ll need to carry out an audit. You need to identify what you are already using. Often the first benefit of an IT strategy can be to eliminate multiple pieces of software that are doing the same or a very similar job. Each piece of software may have a cost to it, but even if they are free having multiple products is inefficient.
One of the areas where this kind of duplicity is rife is with the many communication tools that are available. We have found organisations that have departments using WhatsApp groups, Messenger, VoIP, email, Slack and Teams – all for a company of less than 50 people!
The reason this has happened will simply be down to the personal knowledge and preferences of the people involved – not very strategic!
During the audit you should also be able to identify any potential bottlenecks. These are areas where the current technology isn’t going to cope with the businesses planned growth. There may be potential storage issues. Your CRM system might not be able to cope with additional sales people coming on board. Do you need to look at remote working, and therefore remote access? Even the number of printers required needs to be considered.
Keep control of the money
Controlling cost is one of the main benefits of an IT strategy. A planned approach to the purchase of hardware and software is more cost effective in the long term and allows for effective budgeting.
Most software is now available on a subscription basis which reduces the need for large outlays on licencing. Hardware-as-a-Service reduces capital expenditure on IT equipment, a fast depreciating asset. HaaS also ‘future proofs’ due to it’s in-built IT refresh plans.
Subscription based models allow scalability and flexibility whilst keeping capital in the business and available for other things.
Keep up with change & gain competitive advantage
Another reason is the speed of technological change. Planning ahead forces the business to look at technological developments in their field. Becoming early adopters of new technology can give a business a real competitive advantage.
A strategy will include provision for regular review, meaning opportunities shouldn’t be missed.
How We Can Help
Often business owners do not feel they have the knowledge required to put together an IT Strategy. For these businesses outsourcing should definitely be explored. A professional outsourced IT company will posses both the business and technology skills required to ensure that the full benefits of an IT strategy are realised.
Whether you are Your IT client or not we’d be happy to undertake a review of your current systems and suggest ways to develop your IT Strategy.