Your business takes a lot of planning for the future—from marketing to HR, every aspect of operations involves setting a goal and coming up with a plan to achieve it. As the owner of a small- to medium-sized business, you’re probably used to thinking strategically about everything from purchasing new equipment to putting in the morning coffee order (or, even more strategically, switching to an in-office Keurig), but you might not be applying that same thought process to your technology solutions.
If you have not considered how I.T. fits into your broader business goals, here is some background information about how reevaluating your procedures surrounding technology today can help you meet objectives in the future.
How Technology Fits Into Strategic I.T. Initiatives
The technology you use is only one part of your strategic I.T. initiative. Your computers, mobile devices, software, and servers are merely the tools you use to implement strategic business processes. In reality, a strategic I.T. initiative involves the synthesis of people, processes, and technology. When executives and managers focus solely on the technological aspect of the project, other important considerations can fall by the wayside. Instead of imagining that new software or network architecture alone is enough to meet your goals, think of them as components of a strategic whole.
How Can I.T. Providers Assist You With Strategic Initiatives?
A managed service provider (MSP) can give much-needed guidance to businesses that wish to launch new strategic initiatives because of their breadth of experience helping other organizations implement similar plans. Ideally, your MSP has worked with organizations that are comparable to yours in the past and can take a lot of the guesswork out of finding the solutions you need. An experienced managed service provider can suggest technological solutions you might not have known about, especially if your I.T. department does not have employees with specialized knowledge about the available technology. This saves valuable time that can be used to devise a strategy for implementing the new strategic initiative.
(Photo via Foter.com)
Questions To Ask When Planning a New Strategic Initiative:
What Specific Business Outcomes Are We Trying to Achieve?
Many organizations focus only on the bottom line when planning strategic initiatives, and that approach makes sense, at least in the short term. However, changes to your operations have the potential to affect much more than just the profits you make. A significant change to how you conduct business will likely have ripple effects that can be seen in metrics like web traffic, inventory, and customer satisfaction. So, when making a specific goal, try to imagine what other factors may be impacted by the changes you propose and plan accordingly.
In order to keep all the possible variables under control, it is essential that your desired business outcome is as specific as possible. You shouldn’t plan to “get more website traffic”—you should plan to “increase conversions by 20%.” Having specific, actionable goals will allow you to work toward them more confidently. An effective strategic initiative should provide a budget, scope, and start/end date, and this information should be made available to everyone involved in planning and implementing the new process.
What New Technology Will We Need?
Oftentimes, meeting a certain goal such as streamlining communication between departments involves implementing a specific technological solution (for instance, installing Salesforce or a similar enterprise software package). However, there are instances when you might not even need to purchase expensive new software or hardware, and you can meet your goals by using your current resources more efficiently. An MSP can help you to determine what exactly you need to buy—and how you can avoid unnecessary expenses by streamlining your current processes using existing technological solutions.
What Changes Will We Be Making?
By definition, a strategic initiative involves change. Therefore, the degree of change you are proposing needs to be a major consideration before moving forward with the plan. Think about how the proposed modifications will impact day-to-day operations. What will employees have to do differently? How many changes can they reasonably be expected to incorporate into their tasks?
When starting a new process, or modifying an existing one, you can probably expect a bit of resistance. Be prepared to clearly define the logic behind the changes and explain how they will help you to achieve your business goals. Not only will this appease any skeptics who are not entirely on board with the changes, but it will also ensure that you have solid justifications for implementing the new strategic initiative.
Is the Project Effectively Sponsored?
According to a recent report by the Project Management Institute, sponsorship is the most effective factor in a strategic initiative’s success. If the initiative is visibly, enthusiastically supported by management, the support positively correlates to a desirable outcome. PMI also states that 79% of projects implemented by successful organizations were supported by active sponsors, as compared to 43% of projects at low-performing organizations. This means that to make the initiative successful, sponsors must communicate their goals to employees, build coalitions of support, and become active participants in the proposed changes.
What Is the Scope of the Initiative?
Scope is one of the most important considerations when planning a strategic I.T. initiative. It encompasses multiple aspects of the project—for example, the timeline and the specific outcome. These factors set boundaries that will allow you to allocate resources and determine suitable milestones for measuring progress. A small-scale project involving only a few employees will likely have fewer milestones and deliverables than a large initiative that involves overhauling the entire I.T. infrastructure. An MSP can assist you by planning initiatives with the appropriate scope for your organization’s needs.
In addition to saving your business money on operational costs, a managed service provider can help you reach your long-term organizational objectives by providing guidance for implementing strategic I.T. initiatives. For more information about how an MSP can help your business achieve sustainable growth, call 844-44-JMARK, email us at [email protected] or visit the Contact Us page of our website