As a business owner you’re constantly planning for the future. You focus on company growth by offering new products and services, adding staff, or expanding into other areas of the business. But how often do you tie technology plans with your company’s future strategy? If you don’t have a technology road map, it may be time to form one. The right technology investments can support a company as it advances toward its goals; it can also launch the business to a higher level of performance and achievement.
To match your growth and technology goals, start by looking at your overall business strategy. Where do you want to be in the next five to ten years and what role will technology play in this growth? Will you use IT to manage and support your goals now, or will technology be the engine that fuels your future strategy?
Lay out the scope and structure of your business strategy in a business plan. Then define the role technology will play in each stage of your planned growth.
To determine your specific technology requirements you may have to turn to your trusted IT advisor. They can help you pinpoint specific technologies and help you analyze the cost/benefit potential of IT investments. Like any other business investment, you’ll want to calculate the return on investment (ROI) and identify the efficiencies you expect to gain from your IT.
An expert will also help you to recognize any gaps or redundancies in your tech strategy. Furthermore, you can gain ideas by looking at what other players in your industry are doing. How are your competitors using technology, and what advantages are they reaping from these investments? While you want your business plan to be specific to your company, it’s a good idea to have an overview of what’s happening in the market around you.
You may take a different approach from your competitors and use technology as a means for transformation. In this case, you’ll want to be particularly diligent about doing both a cost/benefit analysis and a risk assessment on any large-scale IT investment.
Ask yourself (and your trusted IT advisor) if the large-scale investment is the most efficient way to achieve your business strategy. Almost half of all IT initiatives fail to meet business objectives because of a lack of planning, so when you take on the risk of a serious investment, you want to make sure that it works in tandem with your longer-term business goals.
Of course, once you decide to go ahead with a project that aligns with your company’s future strategy, your work is not yet done. You’ll want to assign someone to be in charge of your IT development and have that person measure the benefits during execution. Keep in mind that technology benefits are not always measured in revenue; they can also take the form of organizational efficiencies, staff reduction, or customer service improvements. You’ll want your IT manager to track these benefits and ensure that your planned technology investments stay tied to your current business objectives, which will change over time.
While there is no bullet-proof way to guarantee that your IT investments will pay off, by aligning your investments with your company’s future strategy you are more likely to achieve planned growth. You will also be more prepared to deal with unexpected turns in the business landscape because you have already researched different IT scenarios while plotting your investment course.
For more information on managing your IT investments, read Who Should Manage Your Company’s IT Investment?
Scarlet Pruitt is a freelance writer and business consultant based in San Francisco. She has covered business and technology for publications in the U.S., Europe, and Latin America.