No doubt you’ve seen and heard much about the necessity for a strategic approach to IT. That’s all well and good, but for many, IT is something which ‘just happens’ and as a result, calling it ‘strategic’ couldn’t be further from the truth. Want to change that? Here’s how (and hint: a strategic approach will deliver considerable advantages - in performance, efficiency and enablement).
- It's not about technology, it's about your business
Start by revising your business strategy. What are the company goals, ambitions and growth plans? This has to come before the design of the IT strategy. That’s because, fundamentally, unless your company is an IT outsourcer or similar, the technology you use is an enabler. Being clear about the business strategy delivers the necessary insight to make appropriate choices of IT products, services and solutions to support and enable those goals.
- Engage your people
Across your business, people work within processes and use the IT services you are responsible for provisioning. Sounds so obvious as to be almost silly…yet too few decision-makers engage fully with the ‘shop floor’’. Knowing the challenges and frustrations of those at the coal face can provide valuable perspective to make better IT choices. Chat with people directly or use anonymous tools like surveys to gather input. Consult as widely as possible, including staff at all levels, but possibly also customers and suppliers – and make it a habit to continuously gather the insights of your people.
- Check out your competitors
Specialisation is a characteristic of every vertical market. Don’t go snooping around your competitors, though, that would be rude (at the very least!) But do seek out IT specialists who know your industry as they can help you to optimally select and use technology in a ‘best practice’ approach. That means avoiding making the mistakes which come with ‘learning through experience’ and benefiting from proven solutions and approaches, including how much and to whom to outsource non-core functions.
- Kow your IT territory
This is a tricky one, because after all, you’re probably not an IT specialist…but you should find an IT partner who is. With suitable assistance, an audit can uncover just what you already have in terms of hardware, software and services, and how those assets are performing (or not performing). This is an essential step, because after all, you need to know what you have before you can move to the next step and…
- Find the gaps
Knowing the present state of your IT systems and infrastructure sets the scene to establish an ideal ‘future state’ towards which you can work. The gap between ‘now’ and ‘then’ is where efforts should be focused – in other words, the approach to IT is becoming more strategic. Instead of reactively dealing with every emergency which pops up, you’re now planning improvement and development.
- Rolling it out
A level of discipline is necessary to adhere to the IT strategy and that should involve regular reviews of progress, with short, medium and long term goals guiding the initiative. Your IT partner should add crucial expertise with the implementation of any new systems and technology.
As we’ve shown, an effective IT plan isn’t about technology. Instead, it is primarily about knowing your company’s goals and processes, then selecting the best solutions to enable those goals. It’s a competitive world and, as we all rely more on technology every day, taking a strategic approach means gaining optimal benefits of speed, accuracy and performance.