19 Mar 4 Signs You Need an IT Strategy
Most businesses today rely heavily on technology. They use it to manage inventory. They use technology to run payroll. They control inventory and ordering online. Marketing today is virtually impossible without a strong online presence. And for a lot of companies, the vast majority of sales come in over the Internet. Businesses understand the need for technology and IT. But, is having an IT strategy actually all that important?
Many businesses look at technology as a tool (which, of course, it is). But is it really necessary to have a strategy for your IT needs? Who creates a strategy for a wrench or a hammer, or a screwdriver?
The thing is, your IT infrastructure is a much more complex tool than wrench, hammer, or screwdriver. So many things within your business are connected (or should be). Your inventory, marketing, sales, and budgeting are all linked together. What you do in one area affects other areas. If one isn’t functioning properly, it puts the others at risk.
Essentially, IT strategy isn’t about technology per se. It’s really about risk management. It’s not about trying to fix “tech problems.” It’s about how you can strategically use the information you have within your company to make your company more efficient and competitive.
So, how does one create an effective IT strategy? What are the essentials? Here’s a very high-level look at what needs to go into your IT strategy to ensure that the tools you rely on every day will provide you with the information you need and the means to take appropriate action.
- Identify Risk: Often, companies are divided into “information silos.” The information about one part of the business isn’t shared with other departments. Finance may not have accurate information about inventory. Sales and marketing are on different pages with their efforts. Information about what’s happening in development isn’t being passed on to decision-makers. All of those things put your business at risk. Add to that the fact that dangers from outside your company (malware, cyber-attacks, etc.) can shut you down in a heartbeat. You need to understand your vulnerabilities and risks.
- Build a Long-term Strategy: An integrated and efficient system doesn’t just happen. You need to develop a long-term strategy for your IT needs that reflects where your business will be in several years. Excel spreadsheets may work just fine when you’re a small business. But if you grow, you may need something more robust. And how you share that information is just as important.
- Create a Realistic Technology Budget: It’s easy for businesses to look at technology as a cost—a necessary evil—something you have to spend money on to keep your head above water. Smart companies look at technology as an investment that will allow them to operate more effectively and efficiently than their competition. They invest in technology to provide themselves with a competitive advantage. You don’t want to overspend your actual needs for technology (or spend it on the wrong things), but you also don’t want to put your company at risk by cutting corners in critical areas.
- Regularly Review Your Status: If you’ve been in business for a few years, you know that things change. What made sense a year or two ago may no longer be applicable in today’s market. The same thing holds true in the realm of IT. What worked for you last year may no longer meet your needs two years from now—particularly if your business is growing. A regular review of your IT status and needs helps you keep on top of things so that you can address new risks, adjust your strategy, and even take advantage of new developments that can give you a competitive edge.
Your IT strategy will be a constantly evolving thing. It begins with a plan to meet your current needs, but it needs to be regularly updated to protect you from risk, and to give you a leg up on your competitors. It’s a vital step we love to help our clients take so that they can continue to grow and be successful.