Many expanding businesses are now looking to transform their technology to bolster growth. Here's how to develop an IT transformation strategy in 6 steps.
There’s more to IT than just management and maintenance, especially for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). According to Deloitte’s latest tech trend analysis, IT now plays a key part in 'innovating and enabling business strategy.'
This is why ambitious companies of all sizes are looking to transform their IT to bolster growth. If expanding your customer base is on your agenda for this year, you’ll need to upgrade your systems and consider faster, more efficient tools as well as cutting-edge security.
Of course, taking on business-wide transformation is a pretty huge job, even for smaller companies. Untangling complex data systems, dealing with legacy infrastructure and managing potential business interruptions can make it seem like an impossible task.
But it’s not. If you pool your resources and think strategically, you can pull it off. Here’s 6 steps to developing your IT transformation strategy:
1. Align IT with your business goals
The misalignment between wider business goals and IT is a common problem. Often, it’s down to an ingrained culture of reactive IT provision. Many SMBs (particularly when starting out) view IT as a quick-fix response to problems or threats, rather than looking at the big picture.
But as technology moves to the forefront, it’s important to view IT as an enabler of growth as well as a solution to existing problems. Aligning IT with business goals is on the agenda for many CIOs of big corporates this year, so take a leaf from their book and start as you mean to go on.
Think about how you can use tech proactively to add value to the business and drive it forward. Speak to other decision makers and integrate IT into your overall growth strategy.
2. Establish clear metrics
You need to define clear metrics in order to track your IT transformation project’s progress and achieve organisational goals, as Bob Ronan says. Every company is different, but a few key metrics to measure and think about include:
Application availability - the percentage of time applications are functioning properly. This can be tricky to measure, but it gives you an idea of what’s working and what’s not.
Resource cost - the average cost of a technology resource. Comparing this with performance data will help you build a clear idea of what you’re getting (or lacking) from IT investments.
Project satisfaction - it’s important to get feedback from within the business about your project. Survey people using an overall satisfaction scale (e.g. one to five) with specific questions and a further comments section.
3. Gather information on your existing portfolio
‘In addition to developing and refining internal metrics, make sure to capture less tangible information by listening to knowledgeable staff, customers and technology sources. Put mechanisms in place to make this happen.' - IDC, Thriving in the Digital Economy
Look at what you’ve already got and ask people if it works for them. Is there a piece of software or tool that performs consistently well? What is it that frustrates people on a day-to-day basis? You need a clear idea of what’s working, what’s not, and how things can be improved.
If you’re looking at enlisting an IT partner to help with the audit, go with one that understands your deeper pain points and goals. You don’t want to be left with another band-aid fix or the latest thing for the sake of it.
4. Think about processes
When you’re considering your existing systems and setup, don’t forget to think about processes. In line with current trends, this is a key part of IT transformation for high-growth SMBs.
- How do our current processes match up against productivity requirements?
- Are teams getting best use out of their tools? Are they using the right tools?
- Is my organisation’s IT infrastructure meeting agility needs?
- If we upgraded or advanced our technology, would processes need to be changed?
This part of your strategy is important, because you may find you don’t need to ‘rip and replace’ or reinvent the wheel. It might simply be a case of exploring features properly, or educating employees on how to use current systems.
5. Enlist stakeholders
Once you’ve understood business goals and defined your metrics, you need to actively engage team members who can commit to working on the project. Identify key stakeholders and assign them responsibilities.
Your IT transformation is going to impact the whole business, so a holistic approach is essential. Don’t just confine your top team to the IT department - invite people from across the company who are keen to support growth and change. Their perspectives will be valuable in ensuring your IT transformation doesn’t just solve the ‘IT problems.’
6. Create a communications plan
Finally, you need to factor transparency and communication into your transformation strategy. Why? Because keeping everybody in the loop means they are more likely to be engaged and react positively to change.
Make sure you equip the whole company with detailed information prior to rollout to minimise confusion. Then encourage open discussion around the project. This will help to avoid resistance and get everyone on board.
Ready to take on the rest of it
Clear goals, strong direction, a thorough audit and a collaborative team are the key ingredients for a successful IT transformation. But the process doesn’t end there.
Organisations are constantly changing. As the business evolves, so will the IT department - seeking new avenues and responding to demands. Commit to a strategy of constant evaluation, and you’ll be ready to take on the rest of it.