IT plays a fundamental role within every business, and as such has become a critical part of every department.
In fact, every time a new piece of tech launches, our expectations grow. We automatically assume that it will reduce our costs, improve security, boost productivity and will increase workflows and communication. We expect more…
Yet despite these high hopes, IT strategies often end up as an afterthought during the planning stages. For instance, instead of forming an integral part of your business strategy, many businesses just tag it onto the end in the blind hope that they will work well together when push comes to shove.
And this is a big mistake…
By viewing them as separate entities, you risk disconnecting, which is counterproductive to your goals. As a result, it is important that you take steps to develop a strong IT strategy that works in sync with your business strategy. Do that and you can improve the cost, performance and the efficiency of your IT solutions.
More importantly, get these strategies in perfect alignment and you can focus on improving IT in a manner that will have a clear and measurable benefit for the rest of your business operations and performance.
How can you get your IT and business strategies in sync?
The first step to aligning your IT strategy with your business one is being clear on how every decision around new IT solutions/processes will add value to your business. For instance, you should never invest in tech simply for the sake of it being on trend or popular amongst your competitors.
If it serves no purpose for the betterment or improved efficiency of your businesses, then it is not worth exploring.
To help with this clarification, you need to ask yourself: what are your objectives/long term goals? Would adding these IT solutions improve existing processes or would they be a detriment to your team (because they are unable to adapt to them)? More importantly, what value will they bring?
Next, you need to set business related targets for your IT solutions that will enable you to measure and evaluate the benefit they are creating. With this knowledge, you’ll be in a better position to make IT decisions in the future.
Yet, in order to fulfil these you also need to:
- Be clear on the company goals – what are your KPIs? Do you want to increase your ROI or grow your client base?
When considering your goals, you first need to make sure that you are clear on a measurable target for your business – which you all fully agree upon – before you look into how IT can help.
- Understand what’s holding the business back from their goals – once you know your goals, you need to analyse the current state of your business.
For example, you should review your vendors and their pricing – are they too expensive? Likewise, take a look at your sales team and the processes they are using – are they using a lengthy manual process which is stopping them from reaching as many potential clients as they could with a better process?
Only in doing so can you fully understand what’s holding you back and then take steps to make a positive change.
TIP: to assist you on this journey, we suggest making sure that the IT director or person in charge of the IT strategy, gets to experience the daily operations of your business. This will enable them to more accurately determine the requirements of technology, and what is or isn’t working with the current solution (as they’ll see them in action).
In turn, by being more actively involved they will acquire a better understanding of how the technology is used.
- Identify what IT can do to improve things – following the above two points, you should now have a clearer idea of the goals and obstacles your business faces on a daily basis.
With this insight, you can begin to look at how changes to your IT strategy can eliminate these obstacles. For instance, is there a better vendor you can use for your business? Can any of your processes be automated to free up your staff so they can spend their time on more valuable tasks? Is the tech you’re using now compatible with your business needs or is there one which is better suited to your objectives?
At the same time, you need to question whether they are adding value to your business? Have they helped to increase revenues and reduce costs? If not, then you need to start looking for alternatives.
- Plan the roll out of new IT solutions – identifying a new IT solution is only one step.
To ensure successful alignment between your IT and business strategy, you also need to carefully plan out the launch of this new solution, so it causes the least amount of disruption to the rest of your business.
Likewise, you need to make sure that there are no gaps between vendors, as once you stop using them you’ll no longer have access to their services. For this reason, you need to transition smoothly from one vendor to the next, so you can continue working/functioning as normal.
Another element you need to consider is if any services need to be down while this updated solution is implemented. If that is the case, then you need to time this move to when this service is least needed. This will help minimise disruption to everyone.
- Measure & Evaluate the benefits – once everything is in place and your new IT strategy is in motion, you need to evaluate and assess how effective it has been in achieving your company goals. Did you succeed in meeting your KPIs? How much did the change in IT contribute?
Even after its implementation, it is important that you continue to review your IT strategy, to ensure you are always maximising the benefit on the rest of your business. If a solution is no longer pulling its weight, you can use the above tips to begin the process of finding a better solution.
On top of these you can also incorporate the following tips to help improve alignment:
- Get your IT department to report on any business functions that they support
- Give IT the same performance goals as your business functions
- Do cross department training e.g. bring people from your business department and offer then training on IT processes
Like we mentioned at the beginning of this article – IT does more than support businesses. In a lot of instances, IT now IS the business, as it is inextricably linked to your business outcomes. As such, your IT strategy should be designed to support your business strategy and make it better. With the right IT you can help your business to grow, as well as streamline processes and harness creative opportunities.
For help developing an IT strategy that aligns with your business objectives get in touch with Economit. With the assistance of our IT assessments and audits, our team can review your IT infrastructure, hardware, software, licensing, communications (landline and mobile), IT support providers/resources, security and procurement; so you can easily blend your IT and business strategies together and give your business a competitive edge.