And yet so few businesses have developed a dedicated IT strategy. While planning around growth and revenue are commonplace, the idea of planning out technology goals is often overlooked. This means that IT departments are often left out of important planning sessions devising a business strategy. Often, the reason why is that IT departments are seen as separate from other business functions. People acknowledge that IT is important to the running of the business, but that’s day-to-day business, not long-term planning.
Well, the truth is that IT is as much a part of most businesses today as any other part. IT provides the building blocks of the vast majority of modern businesses. Even companies that aren’t in the technology sector will depend on the use of tech systems and platforms. If IT allows your business to function, why leave it out of long term business development plans?
What is IT Strategy?
It’s very common for a business to have a strategy around its revenue generation and growth plan. In fact, you could say an ambitious but achievable business strategy is what makes or breaks a start-up. IT strategy is simply another way of understanding business strategy from a technological perspective. In a nutshell, a business’s IT strategy gives stakeholders an idea of where the business is now, what it’s aiming towards, and how it intends to get there, in terms of systems and processes. This could mean something as simple as transitioning from one system or platform to another, all the way to redesigning how the business operates technologically.
How do you start long term IT planning?
How you start long term IT planning depends on where you are and what you want to achieve. You can start from any point; you don’t have to live and breathe technology to come up with a long-term plan. In fact, if you have never thought about how your technology factors into your business before, developing an IT plan is a good place to start. If you feel truly lost, working with an IT strategy consultancy can be a great way to figure out your current capabilities and future goals.
Why is IT planning important?
1. Outpacing your competitors
We live in an increasingly digital world. The majority of businesses today spend 3-5% of their budget on technology, and that number is only going up. What technology businesses use, whether to interface with customers, manage teams or process data, is a crucial part of operational success. Having a long term plan on how your business will grow technologically to meet and even boost demand is a key part of gaining a competitive advantage.
2. Sell yourself to stakeholders
External stakeholders, whether they be potential clients, shareholders or even customers, are looking to be convinced to invest in your company. Moreover, existing shareholders are always at risk of abandoning their investments if something more attractive comes along. One sure-fire way of enticing important stakeholders is showing them that you have a dedicated, strategic plan for the long term future. For example, you can demonstrate your ambition for growth by creating a long term plan that streamlines your systems or makes your processes more efficient. Show your stakeholders that you are always looking to improve, and then show them how you’re going to do it.
3. Plan investment
Knowing where you are and what you are aiming towards with your technology will help hugely with budgeting for digital development. Being able to effectively cost your IT development and aligning it with your business growth will ensure that you can grow along with your strategy.
4. Give guidance to technology teams
IT planning is a crucial factor in giving a guiding structure to a technology team. Your IT workers can be the most skilled in the world, but if they don’t know what they’re aiming for they will not be contributing much to the business. An IT strategy can provide focus to teams, letting them know what the company’s aim is, what the strategic objectives are, and how the work they do fits into those.
5. Support and inform your mission and values
Everyone likes a business with an ambitious mission and strong values. These elements should be at the core of every business and it should inform every aspect of what it does. With that in mind, you can think of IT planning as a technological mission, alongside your cultural ideological one. If your IT strategy is well thought out and tied closely to your mission and values, it should actually help you achieve them. For example, if you have values around team working, your IT strategy can help you focus on implementing systems that support that. In turn, IT employees demonstrating those values will likely more effectively pursue the implementation of your IT planning. Win win!
6. Build confidence in your technology
Having a IT strategy can inspire confidence in your businesses technology amongst your team. We’ve all had a moment of tearing your hair out at a technological error, it can be pretty demoralising. Even if your current systems aren’t fit for purpose, demonstrating a road map of how you will improve those systems can help calm staff members who are struggling.
Final note: Putting plans into action
Of course, a plan is only as good as its execution. You can put all the work in the world into a dedicated, goal-oriented, future-proof IT strategy, but it will be for nothing if you don’t do the work of implementing it successfully. In fact, implementing a strategy can often take a different skill set to creating one, so it’s vital that reasonable and achievable execution is part of your plan. If you’re not sure about how to put your long-term plans into practice, an IT strategy consultancy can ensure that your long-term planning is as achievable as it is ambitious.