The current forward momentum and pace of technology is extraordinary. It now pervades every aspect of business, from customer relations management to finance, as software solutions (often cloud-based) increasingly replace manual effort.
Yet, companies on tight budgets frequently struggle to fund the improvements that will enable them to leverage technology effectively and put it to work in their firms. Or, they are afraid to upgrade to new solutions because they don’t think they have the resources and skill to manage them. In the end, they muddle along, focusing on maintaining outdated solutions and missing out on the tremendous efficiency and productivity gains that newer technologies bring.
If this sounds like your company―if there are key areas of the business where you could put technology to work for your benefit but are not―it’s time to reevaluate your stance. And, if you are not working with an IT services provider―or your current provider is more of a “Hail Mary” problem-solver than a partner in helping you select and implement new technologies―you should reevaluate that decision, as well.
The question, then, is how? With the barrage of information on big data, mobility, disaster recovery, BYOD (bring your own device) and other technology challenges, where do you start the conversation? Following are some considerations that may help you answer that question.
Know Your Organization and Its IT Needs. Conduct a thorough assessment of your organization and how it uses technology currently. Which technologies are mission-critical? Which operations are absolutely essential to your daily operations? These are the areas where IT investments will likely result in the fastest payback.
Recognize Your Vulnerability. No company wants to have its data stolen or its network hacked, but for some companies, a security breach could threaten their business continuity due to lost customer good will, legal or regulatory ramifications, and other issues. Ensuring your business assets are sufficiently robust for your level of risk tolerance should come before adding a new sales management platform or other technology tool.
Understand Your Staff and Its Preferences. What do your workers wants from their work environment? Do you have a troop of young workers that expect (and know how to utilize) new systems and solutions, or is your team composed of mostly older employees who are uncomfortable with “new-fangled” technologies? Issues such as staff retention (younger workers) and resistance to adoption (older workers) should be considerations for your IT strategy and decisions.
Define What Success Looks Like. It amazes me how few SMBs clearly identify their metrics for success. I don’t mean having an overall goal ―“We want to achieve $5 million in revenue by 2015”―but rather the performance indicators that let a company know if it is moving toward a vibrant and prosperous future. Companies that know (and can measure) whether or not they are succeeding in propelling more business value have a better chance of achieving their goals―and of choosing the right technologies to help them along the way.
If it sounds like a big effort to perform all these evaluations, that’s because it is. But it is also essential, not only to your accomplishments with technology but also to your long-term success as a company. The good news is you do not have to walk this path alone. Entrust your top personnel―and maybe even some trusted vendors―with providing input during your journey to discovery. If you currently work with an IT provider, include them in the conversation, as they will be making the recommendations that align with your plans. If you are not certain your IT firm is up to the task, or you do not currently work with anyone, give me a call. Our virtual CIOs specialize in helping companies develop technology roadmaps that drive businesses in the right direction.