What every SME needs to know


 Introduction

Employed strategically, IT can drive growth, help the business tackle new opportunities and be a significant contributor to the bottom line

There’s more to a business technology strategy than simply allocating money to IT in the budget – it’s an opportunity to ensure that IT is well-placed to drive growth while supporting your business’ current and future needs.

It’s easy to dismiss IT as just a cost centre – a necessary evil required to keep the lights on and occasionally put out fires – but to view technology this way is to miss its true potential as a business enabler. Employed strategically, IT can drive growth, help the business tackle new opportunities and be a significant contributor to the bottom line.

The key is ensuring your technology strategy remains aligned with your overall business strategy, to guarantee IT never becomes self-serving and is always working for the business. As you’re developing your technology strategy, there are a few key areas to keep in mind to ensure IT delivers on its potential.

  Align with business objectives

Once your business objectives are clear, technology can act as a force multiplier for small businesses

Never forget that technology is a means to an end, to help your business on the path to success. This means an effective technology strategy must begin with a solid business strategy. If your overall business strategy is unclear, then you need to focus on this before you tackle your business’ technology strategy. Technology can’t help you achieve your business objectives if they’re not clearly articulated.

Once your business objectives are clear, technology can act as a force multiplier for small businesses – allowing them to disrupt entire sectors – while it can also allow large businesses to remain nimble in the face of growing competition. Rather than just supporting revenue, ask yourself whether your business technology strategy is actually driving revenue. Is it opening up new opportunities? Is it empowering your people to work more productively and tackle new challenges in order to meet business objectives? Is your strategy fixated on today’s issues, or is it also designed to meet the challenges of tomorrow?

 Focus on outcomes

Focus on where the business is headed over the next few years and how technology can help it get there

Your technology strategy should always focus on business outcomes rather than becoming bogged down in the technological detail of how those outcomes will be realised. When in doubt, ask “why” rather than “how”, always returning to the guiding principle of aligning with the business objectives. These can be difficult conversations that challenge the status quo, but if you can’t clearly articulate the “why” behind your business technology strategy then you’re not yet ready to decide “what” and “how”. Otherwise, you’re at risk of frittering away your IT budget on initiatives that don’t meet the real needs of the business.

Technology is a business enabler, but your strategy shouldn’t be technology-driven or swayed by the latest trends and business buzzwords. Don’t fixate on specific platforms or ecosystems and then work backwards, or drill down into the detail of executing specific IT projects. Instead, focus on where the business is headed over the next few years and how technology can help it get there.

 Think holistically

A business technology strategy should include an overall plan, detailed timeline and budget

A blinkered technology strategy might make life easier for the IT team, but such a strategy will struggle to serve the business and meet the needs of staff throughout the organisation. The days of corporate IT departments or external providers being a “preventer” of services are long gone – regardless of their size or sector, no business can afford for technology to be a roadblock. A holistic technology strategy must reflect this idea that technology serves the business and not vice versa.

A technology strategy should include an overall plan, detailed timeline and budget, but remember it also offers the opportunity for IT to be proactive rather than merely reactive – especially if you’re looking for technology to drive revenues. A holistic strategy takes into account the threats and opportunities facing the business, realising that these change over time. This means your technology strategy needs to be a living document rather than carved in stone. Don’t attempt to lock in every fine detail over the next three years and then take the risk of your technology commitments holding you back. Instead, your technology strategy should focus more on the next 12 to 18 months, remembering it needs to be reviewed whenever the business strategy is reviewed.

 Budget for support and maintenance

Strategically renting some equipment rather than purchasing outright can smooth out cash flows and free up capital to invest elsewhere

Remember, your budget needs to cover both upfront capital expenditure and ongoing operational expenditure to ensure your technology investment doesn’t wither on the vine. It’s easy to underestimate the real costs of supporting and maintaining technology – including applications, infrastructure, processes and people – along with lifecycle management including enhancements and upgrades. It’s important to be across industry best practice regarding managing and extending the life of your technology to make the most of your investments, while ensuring the business isn’t held back by legacy IT systems.

This is where the cloud is a real game changer, allowing businesses to convert significant capex outlays into more manageable opex such as monthly subscription fees. Likewise, strategically renting some equipment rather than purchasing outright can smooth out cash flows and free up capital to invest elsewhere. Relying on leasing arrangements and cloud services can also alleviate maintenance, repairs and upgrades.

 Keep it simple

You’ll need to share your business technology strategy with various stakeholders throughout the company

While there’s a lot of ground to cover, from cyber security to backup and disaster recovery, your technology strategy should remain focused on the big picture rather than becoming bogged down in the technical detail. It should be thorough but not complex; you certainly need more than a colourful slideshow, but you should save the fine detail of exactly how you’ll implement your technology strategy for other documents.

Keep in mind that you’re not just writing for a tech-savvy audience. You’ll need to share your technology strategy with various stakeholders throughout the business, from the boardroom down, and they’ll be reluctant to support a strategy that you can’t clearly articulate in a way they understand. Remember that they’re more interested in what technology will do for the business and why, rather than the intricate details of how.

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About the author

Alexander Darcy

Adam Scott is a technology expert with a passion for innovative ideas.