Many companies consider their IT provider as a function that is simply there to fix things when they go wrong – whether it be phones, laptops or user software. But we live in a world that is increasingly reliant on technology and since growth – whether in profit, size or turnover – is necessary for the survival of every company, it is essential that an effective and proactive IT strategy is put in place to support the strategy for successful growth.
Step 1. Where are you now?
The first step in developing this strategy is to understand where you are now. This can be done by mapping the current processes and procedures that are necessary for the effective operation of your business.
- Draw up a rough map of high level processes and who or which department is responsible for them.
- Interview the people who carry out each process, understanding the sub-processes required and adding them to the map
- List the IT support and technology currently used for each process.
Step 2. Where do you want to be?
The second step is to understand where you want to be.
Ask yourself these questions:
- What is the company’s short, medium and long term goals?
- What are the business goals for each department to support the business goals?
- What is industry best practice for each of the processes and procedures that have been investigated?
Step 3. Conduct a gap analysis
Finally, conduct a gap analysis that will enable you to create a plan to get from where you are now to where you want to be in the future. Use the result of these investigations to demonstrate how IT can be used to support and streamline business operations to achieve the plan.
For example, if cost-cutting is one of the company’s goals, are other companies using software that reduces administration costs? If so, can you use it in your company?
Or if your aim is to streamline payment processes, is there software available to allow automatic invoicing on receipt of goods?
Remember that your IT provider should be an expert in understanding the best and freshest technologies that are available in the market and how they can be used to support business goals.
Reputable IT providers can advise on the appropriate technology for the size of your business and the processes you use. For example, there is no point in spending thousands on a server for your business when off-site cloud storage may be the more appropriate and cost-effective option.
Once the technology has been chosen, your IT provider is in the best position to implement it and create the new processes and training packages that are required to accompany it.
Never allow your technology to become stale or out of date. Regular reviews of the IT strategy should be put in place at least annually. This will make sure that the technology you have adopted is still the best and most appropriate for your operations. It will also give you a chance to investigate and take advantage of any new technology that may be applicable to the changing needs of your business.
Remember that to keep your business at the cutting edge of your industry, you must take advantage of what technology is available and the expertise that your IT provider has to offer. An effective IT strategy is the only way to successfully support and enable growth and to make sure that your company maintains a competitive edge.