IT (Information technology) is an important, if not an integral part of most businesses and their success. Without it, most businesses simply would not function. So why are we so complacent when it comes to how we use technology within our business?
Having an IT strategy is a must, as it will help you fully utilise your technology, help increase efficiency and productivity as well as possibly save your business money. As well as these internal factors, an IT strategy can also help improve your customer experience and also your customer service. With such a huge task, it is sometimes difficult to know where to start. Luckily for you, we outline…
- What an IT strategy is
- The benefits of an IT strategy
- The components of an IT strategy
- How to develop an IT strategy
What is an IT strategy?
First and foremost, we must answer the questions ‘what is an IT strategy?’. An IT strategy, (also known as technology strategies and IT technology strategic plan) is a plan that encompasses how your technology should be used, how much it will cost, cost management, and technology including hardware and software management. All of which should aim to align technology and operations with business goals. Ideally, an IT strategy should be taken into consideration when planning the overall business strategy.
An IT strategy needs to be flexible and should be able to adapt to any business changes such as the growth of the business, the introduction of new technologies or business priorities.
What are the benefits of an IT strategy?
An IT strategy ultimately helps you align your IT with your business goals. Instead of randomly buying technology, hardware and software for your business, an IT strategy will help you and your business understand what you need and then how to optimise and effectively use that technology to help departments and the overall business reach its KPI’s. Key benefits of an IT strategy include but are not limited to:
- Increase efficiency and productivity
- Improve customer experience and service
- Improve budget planning/ reduce surprise costs
- Ensure the IT is helping reach business goals
- Ensure your business is staying competitive
Increase efficiency and productivity
When IT systems fail or technology doesn’t work, it can grind businesses to a halt. An IT strategy should be able to effectively highlight weak areas, that need improving, and ‘mission-critical systems and data' which allows you to proactively plan actions that must be taken to ensure systems are back up and running promptly.
Furthermore, an IT strategy will have pre-planned what departments need what technology/hardware/software to be able to effectively function. Ensuring employees have everything they need will help increase productivity, especially with ensuring new starters have everything they need to hit the ground running.
Improve customer experience and service
Your business growth depends on acquiring and retaining customers, which will place customers at the very front of your business objectives. Ensuring that the customer experience is clear and coinvent throughout the whole customer journey and lifecycle such as a clear and easy to use website and an easy way to contact the business (phone, email, social media) is important for any business. Conducting user experience tests, such as replicating different ways customers interact with your business can help highlight areas where technology can be used to improve the experience, such as QR codes for postage returns and scan and shop at supermarkets.
Customer relationship management (CRM) tools, can help businesses manage leads and customers, build communication and marketing campaigns as well as log communications. This type of technological integration is great for any business to help improve customer experience and service as you can use it to create more personalised, automated, and more frequent communications.
Improve budget planning/ reduce surprise costs
One of the main benefits of an IT strategy is being able to forecast IT cost. Instead of buying hardware and software ad-hoc you can take a planned approach with an estimation of how much you’ll need over a period which helps with effective budgeting. With each new purchase, an estimated lifespan should be allocated, allowing you to pre-plan when equipment will have to be replaced.
Furthermore, communicating with departments will give you a better understanding of potential new hires allowing you to build in an additional budget for the new hire’s equipment.
You can’t predict broken technology, however, with an IT strategy, you can plan your required maintenance, updates and replacements of old devices and therefore can reduce the number of unplanned expenses. This also will allow you to make investments in technology that can be built into your IT strategy.
Software upgrades and licence renewals usually happen annually, which makes planning for these in advance relatively straightforward. Ensuring your licencing and software is up to date is imperative for remaining compliant as well as ensuring optimum IT security for your business.
Ensure the IT is helping reach business goals
The shared goal in a business is to reach the business goals and objectives. Few businesses could operate completely technology-less and in many cases, technology is one of the key factors that help the business drive sales. Ensuring that your business has an effective IT strategy that guarantees your employees have the appropriate hardware and software they need to complete their job effectively, are utilising technology to better the customer experience as well as the customer service, can keep on budget and even reduce costs will help drive and meet business needs.
Ensure your business is staying competitive
Within your IT strategy, you can plan when to upgrade and update your systems, nevertheless, sometimes it is difficult to keep up with the speed of technological evolution. However, planning will encourage the business to look ahead at any technological developments in their field.
Ensuring that your IT strategy is flexible and adaptable is crucial to stay up to date and ensure your business utilises innovative technology to remain competitive.
Components of an IT strategy
An IT strategy will vary depending on your business, industry, and business goals. However, the main structure and components of your IT strategy will always be similar. Your IT strategy should include:
- Cost and Budget
- Security, Compliance and Governance
- IT asset inventory
- IT management and user management
- Customer and user interfaces
- Servers, devices, and storage
- IT environment
How to develop an IT strategy
Similarly, to the components of the IT strategy, how you develop our IT strategy will vary depending on your business and your business objectives. However, all IT strategies should cover the same base's.
Outline your business goals
The goal of an IT strategy is to ensure that your business is using its IT to its optimal potential, as well as support the business in reaching its business goals. Therefore, outlining and fully understanding your business goals is crucial before you start planning your IT strategy. Outline items such as growth plans, sales targets, upcoming organisational management changes such as company acquisitions or partnerships and any other actions that could impact the way your business operates such as plans to work remotely, hybrid working or returning to the office.
Communicate with your operations teams
Communication between teams is imperative to successful planning for your IT strategy. Find out about industry trends, and the business direction to help your team make educated decisions on what your IT needs to be able to support the future of the business.
Define the schedule, lifespan and scope
Most IT strategies are long term, however, depending on your business industry, regulations, and access to technologies you may want to review and refresh your IT strategy more often. Within your plan, you should define key stages such as implementation, integration, activation, and review, as well as the frequency of review.
Review and assess existing technology and infrastructure
Conduct a technology and infrastructure audit to highlight any problems or weakness you have in your IT systems. This is also a good opportunity to stock take all of your IT equipment to ensure you have an up-to-date log of all your existing equipment/hardware/software. In doing so, you can begin to build your strategy around your pre-existing assets which can save you money and time.
When conducting this audit ensure you are covering how other departments and teams are using their technology, what software, tools and systems do they use, and which technology is working, and which isn’t.
Create an IT strategy roadmap and resource allocation
To create a roadmap, you must first define your technology architecture. This architecture is made up of any hardware, software, and other technological assets that your business uses/will be using.
In this section, you will also have to include any department-specific technology and consider how it fits in that wider company architecture.
Define your metrics
Once your IT strategy has been implemented, you will need to review and assess whether the strategy is effective in helping the business reach its goals. This will be done by setting goals and KPI’s and analysing the performance over a determined period.
Types of metrics that can be included are customer satisfaction, budget, number of help desk calls and end-user/customer feedback.
Keep your IT strategy up to date
Last but in no means least, you must keep your IT strategy up to date. With new technologies emerging more frequently than ever, it is imperative to also keep your IT and your IT strategy up to date to ensure your business can keep up in the ever-evolving industry, ensure the highest quality of service for customers and keep your business protected from advanced security threats.
Is your IT strategy helping you grow your business?
So, now you know what an IT strategy is, why it is beneficial, the components of an IT strategy and how to develop one, you can now ask yourself…
‘Is our technology helping the business achieve the business goals?’
If the answer is no, I don’t know, I’m not sure, or at this point, I don’t care…then it probably isn’t, and we suggest you reread the ‘how to develop an IT strategy’ steps and start planning on putting a strategy together as it is extremely beneficial to your business.
If you answered, ‘at this point I don’t care’, we have the ideal solution for you. Get in touch with us and book a free 30-minute strategy call and we can advise you on how to get started with your IT strategy, or we can work with you to help fully develop your businesses IT strategy.
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