When developing an IT strategy, you have two choices. The first is to look at the features of your current IT systems and then find a way to use them, and then to do the same with any potential IT products or services you’re considering adopting in the future. Alternatively, you could choose to view your IT assets as a tool for business enablement: in other words, you could start with the objectives of your business and then assess what you’ll need your IT tools to do in order to streamline that.
It might not sound like a big difference, but your choice can result in either a wasteful IT strategy or one that supports your core business and boosts profits. Here’s how to make the most of your IT strategy.
The Big Picture
Before you can consider developing an IT strategy, you need to ensure all parties involved have a complete understanding of your business strategy. Even if you’re sure your team knows and understands the goals of your business, it’s worth going over them together to ensure everyone is on the same page. Bear in mind that the why of your business is often more important than what you sell.
For example, you might work in an organization that designs and manages websites for small businesses. You might be able to design pages quickly at a low price, but is that really what you want to base your IT and business strategy around? Instead, you might consider positioning yourself as a web design partner who helps small businesses grow rapidly to scale by offering fast and convenient web services. With this insight, you’ll be able to implement an IT strategy that helps your customers grow rapidly, which will strengthen your value proposition and give customers a clear idea of what sets you apart from the competition.
Tying IT Together
Your IT strategy needs to support every element of your business strategy. At its most basic, this could mean avoiding the temptation to buy the most powerful equipment or lease the most feature-filled software and then hope to use it enough to justify the expense. In more specific terms, it means never losing sight of how IT can help you achieve your goals, from the fundamental “sell goods or services at a profit” to the more specific business strategies you’ve adopted.
In our example website design company, every IT buying or setup decision needs to spark the question “How does this help our business strategy.” Taking the customer service estimate, you could be asking:
- Do we need to find an outsourced partner for our hosting services to ensure our customers receive the level of uptime they need to achieve their growth targets?
- Should we consider implementing IT resources to help customers in real-time, such as a chatbot, live website help or a knowledge base?
- When we use third-party services, should we insist on security measures and protection of customer data that goes above and beyond the legal minimum?
Of course, these are just examples, and your IT strategy is bound to be far more complex in reality. It will cover elements such as cost, risk management, operational versus capital spending, opportunities for development and upgrades, and the criteria by which you measure success. But unless you develop it with the greater context of your business strategy in mind, an IT strategy will not be as useful and productive as it could.
As with any business strategy indeed, arguably more so your IT strategy can’t be static. As well as making sure every decision you make aligns with your wider goals right now, you need to be looking to the future to anticipate whether your IT system could become outdated, inefficient or redundant in the coming years, and have a plan in place in good time to ensure you don’t fall behind the competition.
If you want to get a clearer picture of your current IT system’s capabilities and how it could help achieve your business strategy, try PowerNET’s free IT health check below.