As we start the new year, it’s the perfect time to evaluate your budget and determine the direction of your business for the next 3-5 years. Implementing a strategic technology roadmap and budget can help you fulfill the goals you set for your business.
Almost every industry now sees IT as a key aspect of their productivity strategy. There is a rising need to not only plan and budget for IT, but to strategically plan for future goals and initiatives. Established companies have developed numerous methods of creating viable technology roadmaps that stretch 3, 4, even 5 years ahead. But if you're new to strategic IT planning, how do you catch up with companies that have years of experience?
If you've ever managed a project you know that planning is the most important key to success. Just like any project or strategic plan, IT has the same constraints that need to be discussed. The three most important of these constraints are budget, quality and risk. Each of these are key to a successful IT strategy.
Technology costs can vary depending on the solutions your business needs. If you are thinking, "But I have no base line to go by, how do I even start?" You already have a base cost; you just didn’t realize it.
Consider your phone, printer, computer, monitor, cell phone, email service…etc. Unless you stole those items, they all cost something. Start with these basic questions:
- What do you have now?
- Does what you have work?
- Is it old or non-functioning?
- Should you replace it?
A few topics to narrow your considerations in your budget are security, efficiency, replacement or repair, and cost. Those few items will generate a lot of questions for any initiatives you may have in your budget.
Next, talk to your employees. Your staff knows the tools that would make their life easier and will happily tell you about them. Let them guide your research for innovation and find out what their ideas cost. Often, suggestions may lead to budget savings.
When you start to plan your budget, talk to the vendors that you work with daily about what innovations or enhancements may be available. Some of the biggest innovations and initiatives will come from your vendors. Never shy from talking about the topics that are most important to your business. If you trust your vendor partners, use them! Plus, partners often quote out an exact price for an upgrade or replacement, allowing you to be more accurate with your budget.
Quality is something you should always consider when planning. Setting expectations of the outcome, not just for yourself, but your employees as well, is important. As you and your IT partner lead the way into a strategic roadmap for more productive solutions, the outcome and expectations of the quality should match.
Imagine you decide to purchase a new business software that will save your employees hours of manual labor allowing them to perform more important tasks. You talked to the vendor, got the sales pitch, and had a painless rollout, but your employees hate it and won’t use it.
Engage your employees when considering the quality of a solution. Find out what their expectations are for the final product and set the expectations with your vendors for that outcome. Your employees are your strength when it comes to a strategic IT roadmap.
IT is risky business and lots of questions get thrown around.
- How do I know the next best thing won't come out tomorrow?
- What if our partner stops making the product?
- What if it doesn't work well?
These questions are difficult to answer and only cause stress and worry. Instead, consider these:
- Will this align with my company's goals?
- Will this enhance or hinder my employees from fulfilling these goals?
If you stick to business-minded questions you'll find that your strategy will closely align with your business and minimize risks.
Roadmaps are just prioritized plans. Once you understand the outcome of your business goals, the roadmap writes itself. It could be something as simple as a visual diagram, a To-Do list in excel, or even a framed napkin with scribbles on your wall. If your roadmap reveals the direction and priorities of your business, it will be a success.
Protech Systems Group is the Chamber’s official technology partner. Chamber members can receive a free IT assessment with recommendations from the experts at ProTech as a benefit of membership! Click here to learn more.