Throwing it at the wall and seeing if it sticks might be a good technique when you’re cooking spaghetti. It’s not so handy when it comes to your IT business strategy.
You’ve probably already got strategies in place for things like marketing and business development - so why neglect the tech that runs everything? Achieving your long-term goals requires the aligning of IT with your business strategy.
What is an IT strategy?
An IT strategy is a roadmap that outlines your business’ vision and how information technology will help you get there. It should be a detailed guideline that includes things like budgeting, goals, and operating models/systems that fit the future state of the company’s technology architecture.
The idea is to develop ways to squeeze as much value as possible from all the techy stuff.
This document should act like a link between your IT team and the rest of the business. So, view it as a business document rather than a technical one; it’s important that everyone can read the document and get onboard.
What are the benefits of an IT strategy? Here are 5 of our faves
An IT business strategy is well worth the investment. Whether that’s an investment of your time or investing your budget into IT strategy consulting services.
Fail to prepare, prepare to fail, or however that annoying quote goes.
1. Get the team on the same page (more collaboration, less duplication)
One unified document means everyone knows what’s happening. Employees throughout the company should be able to refer to the IT strategy whenever they need it. It’s the IT bible that helps to boost efficiency, minimise duplicated tasks, foster collaboration and reduce errors.
2. Collect insights to move forward
The technology at your fingertips facilitates data collection on a whole new scale. You could take advantage of AI, automation and big data, for ongoing insights into your company’s performance and the best way to progress. An IT strategy for small businesses provides the opportunity to compete with the best of them.
3. Protect your business from the 164 daily cyber attacks in Australia
Every good IT strategy includes a holistic, comprehensive look at cybersecurity. That means spotting your weak spots so you can put plans in place to protect sensitive company and customer data.
4. Say ‘see ya later’ to downtime and the costs that come with it
In business, system crashes are just a part of life. Right? Wrong. A solid IT strategy not only keeps disruption to a minimum, but it means you have an action plan if something does go wrong. Get back up and running quickly, to drastically slash the costs, reputation risk and piles of admin that come with downtime.
5. Get the entire business clued up on IT
Your IT strategy should be written in a way that’s easy to understand for everyone - including your sales, marketing, finance and HR managers. The people that would usually never touch a techy document with a barge pole can use your IT strategy as a bridge between departments.
It’s there to improve organisational communication for better alignment as well as easier stakeholder buy-in whenever you want to raise IT initiatives.
The components of a good IT strategy
What’s in an IT strategy for a small business like yours? The following components belong in all IT strategies - for businesses big and small. Just scale things up or down depending on your organisation’s needs and goals.
1. Company vision
Where does your business want to be in terms of IT, and how will you get there?
2. The roadmap
What steps do you need to take to arrive at your vision? Consider key milestones along the way.
3. Business alignment
Your IT strategy isn’t an island. It should align with every other aspect of the business. How can you align IT goals with your wider business goals?
How much will you need to allocate to create the strategy and cover associated costs? Consider things like new systems, staff, software and hardware maintenance, licensing and device costs. You should also include a projection on the ROI, to help get senior executives on board.
5. Competitive analysis
Examine your strengths and weaknesses against your competitors’. How can you get an edge with IT?
How will your IT business strategy support short-term and long-term goals? For the short-term, consider staff training, new process implementations, etc. For your long-term IT goals, look at the bigger picture. This could be bringing AI into the mix, or updating your digital presence.
7. IT infrastructure
What new hardware, software, applications and networks will you bring to the business?
8. Your customer
How will your customer benefit from the new IT strategy? How do they prefer to interact with your business?
9. Regular check-ins
We love a long-term (5-year) strategy, but continuous check-ins keep things on track. The technology landscape waits for no one, so stay on top of it to make sure you don’t veer off in the wrong direction - or get left behind.
The IT strategy process anyone can follow
It’s time to put what you’ve learned into action. It’s the part you’ve been waiting for: How to develop an IT strategy.
The process should look a bit like this:
- Get a team together (not just the IT experts; grab people from every department)
- Discuss short-term and long-term goals
- Analyse the current state of your business IT
- Examine technology trends and competitors
- Develop your future vision
- Carry out a gap analysis (what’s missing?)
- Look at available strategic options
- Put your IT strategy roadmap together (ideally a 5-year plan)
- Define the operating model and necessary new tech
- Prioritise initiatives based on value, cost and complexity
- Add detail to your roadmap
- Secure buy-in from stakeholders
- Decide how you’ll measure success
- Check-in on your progress at least once a year