When it comes to defining and running a business, there are a plethora of aspects that need your attention and focus. The list is so long that it is bound to happen that you choose to focus on certain key aspects and let the others take a back seat for the time being. This may not mean that you wish to ignore those but simply that you do not have the time and capacity at the moment to cater to them.
A huge part of the success of any business is not only on what constitutes these aspects you lay focus on but which ones you choose to begin with. Apart from Financial, Human Resource, Operations, and Marketing, IT needs to be a core strategy you focus on. Leaving out for later or unattended may have dire consequences. In any business, the IT strategy is more important than you likely think it is.
What is IT Strategy?
The term Information Technology (IT) strategy in itself is seemingly too vast and vague to make any sense without a proper context. This also means that the term more often than not means things at different levels or layers in different contexts.
Today when we mention IT strategy here we mean by that the term in the specific context of establishing, running, and growing a business. In this sense, let us understand what exactly is an IT strategy.
For a business, this is the main/ governing document in this aspect. This document covers extensively how the business goals and processes will be driven in terms of the IT infrastructure and technology. The core idea is to make IT not only a part of the business but a core block in it. The biggest task at hand here is to establish an IT vision while constructing the plan that will allow technology and other resources of IT to be useful. The use must lie in creating value and manifesting organization goals.
Here’s a list of what is included in IT strategies:
- Technology details – Which are the technologies that will be implemented in the business and how
- Project details – Which are the core IT projects for the rubbing and success of the business
- Financial details – Defining and structuring not only the overall budget but the detailed expenses to the level possible as well while accounting for all costs
- Time details – The IT timeframes and their details that need setting out
- Change details – The processes and roadmaps to deal with change and for incorporating new technologies as they come up
- Authority details – Who will make the decisions when it comes to IT and what will be the hierarchy of power in the business for this
Defining and laying out such a roadmap is important for an IT strategy that must fit into your business entirely.
Fitting IT strategy into business
There was a time not so long ago when nearly all businesses believed the IT department and their strategies were not part of the mainstream function of the business. The IT teams were seen as outsiders at best who were present only for troubleshooting needs.
Times have changed and changed drastically in a relatively short time. Today no business can even imagine running without a complete IT strategy and team, both internal and external. This team is not just an extended part of the business but is crucial in formulating, running, and growing each and every single aspect of the business.
As businesses become more and more compact in terms of diversified teams the IT team is seen to have made a role for itself in every single department. It is of no consequence if the business product or service is not IT-centric today. No branch of any business in any sector can imagine running without it.
Let us look at an example to prove the point. Irrespective of your business, you will need HR, finance, and marketing. Can you visualize any of these departments without an internal IT person? Can you visualize any of these departments without a strategy stemming from IT? The IT Department is no longer a separate entity. It is inbuilt in all aspects of the business.
This also translates to the IT Department being on the board and the table now. No longer is it a back-office job. No longer does it only suffice for them to be in a support function. Your IT strategy must be put on the table in front of the Board of Directors. It must be part and parcel of any business decision that needs to be taken every single time.
Is my current strategy effective?
As someone who runs a business, the above may have come as information to you but not a shock, certainly. If it did then that makes the question we are looking to answer just now even more relevant for you.
At this point, you may have been wondering if your present IT strategy is one that is effective or just customary. While there can be no iron-clad plan made in this regard, as each business and company has its unique aspects, some things can be put into consideration.
Here is a list of a few questions, answering which should be able to tell you if your strategy is effective or not. The more questions you can answer in the affirmative, the more effective your strategy is:
- Is your IT team not merely a support function that is answerable for troubleshooting hardware and software who are involved only when sought out?
- Do you consult your IT team regularly in order to gain their insights on how technology and the team can improve business processes and be of value addition?
- Is the technology you use currently in the business reviewed periodically to keep tabs on its efficiency and use along with knowledge of different or better technology that may be available to you?
- Do you know where and how your data backup works and is present? Also, are you in a position to internally safeguard your data from external stakeholders and partners if needed?
- Are you confident of your data protection and privacy policies and procedures in place? Is it going to be difficult for a hacker or data thief to work on your data?
- Are your employees well aware of the penalties of a data breach if done willingly? Are contracts and procedures for this in place already?
- Have you been able to transition to the work from home environment with the least pressure during the pandemic?
- Is your technology never nearly outdated and always ready to face the coming few years?
- Is your IT strategy ready to tackle sudden technological changes and advancements that disrupt entire systems?
- Is your core team and are your employees satisfied with the technology and the IT tools in place at your business and available to them?
- Are you less than optimally using the technology that is available to you? Can you work better without changes to the IT system at all?
- Is the scope for automation exhausted when it comes to employees doing tasks manually? Are you at the optimal limit in this given your business strength and position?
- Are you confident about your business cybersecurity strategy and employee training for the same?
- Is your team aware of the different forms of cyber threats that may exist and how to avoid them personally as well as for the business?
- Is your business facing fewer recurring problems than before? Is the level of effect on productivity as low as possible due to these?
- Are you aware of where and how to look for technological updates and trends along with how to incorporate them?
- Is there a comprehensive one-stop IT strategy as a framework in place for your business?
- Are you aware of how an IT strategy converts to better organizational value?
The above questions are just a broad look into the effectiveness check. That said, we would suggest you keep a track of your score in this and refer to it often to see your direction in this aspect is correct or otherwise.
Improving IT strategy
You are now at a point where you not only know what an IT strategy is and how it benefits your business but can also relatively gauge the level of efficiency your strategy is at; you may now be wondering how to improve your strategy from where it stands at the moment.
There are many ways to do this and the exact manner of actual improvement will depend on your business and its intricacies. That being said, here are the three broad ways to achieve this aim
- Keep a tab on the checklist – We shared with you above a checklist of how to gauge the efficiency of your IT system and overall strategy. You can use this or any other such checklist to keep a tab on your strategy. Improvement should mean checking more and more items on the list. As you are able to answer in the affirmative more and more questions you will know your strategy is improving with passing time.
- Trustworthy IT consultancy – The best way to improve your comprehensive IT strategy is to partner with a trustworthy IT consultancy. Such a consultancy will be able to help you in multiple ways. They will be able to help you see an outside third-person view of your entire system and strategy. This is needed for an unbiased opinion at times. Secondly, they will be able to guide you in matters on which as a business which does not specialize in this you may be unaware. The important factors to look at while choosing the partner would be their experience, their proactiveness, responsiveness, and client satisfaction.
- Digital transformation – As time goes on, digital transformation is no longer a choice. It has indeed become a necessity for all businesses. This needs to become a part of your IT strategy improvement. You need to digitally transform your business. This has a direct impact on a better strategy.
As we mentioned, this is in no way a comprehensive or exhaustive list for improvement of your IT strategy for your business. This is at best a guiding structure as the final details of your choices will depend on the intricacies of your business, your industry, your sector, and your location.
When taking all the above into account, you must have realized by this point how crucial and absolutely indispensable IT strategizing is for you as a business owner or manager. Even if you are not the top boss in your business it solutions, this is something you must bring to light and on the table in discussions. Working on an IT strategy is no longer something that can be taken lightly or ignored by anyone.
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