We all expect that our technology is going to make us more effective, more productive, and possibly provide a competitive advantage. However, very few businesses are able to actually achieve this outcome on their own. The truth is that there are a few key things required for IT to help your business operate faster. As you'll see in this blog, there is a bit of a domino effect in how each component plays into the other.
We all expect that our technology is going to make us more effective, more productive, and possibly provide a competitive advantage. However, very few businesses are able to actually achieve this outcome on their own.
Some will try, buying the latest computer on the market with the latest processor with more RAM in anticipation that users will be more productive and the business will see positive results. The reality in these situations, however, is that while an application may open quicker and it might be faster to do some tasks, there is usually very little that changes in a person’s ability to produce more. So, while IT can help speed up your business, it takes more than shiny hardware to make that happen.
The truth is that there are a few key things required for IT to help your business operate faster. As you’ll see below, there is a bit of a domino effect in how each component plays into the other.
1. IT Strategy
Like all things big, IT needs a strategy to be successful. This is much more than investing in new servers and computers, the cloud, etc. This is figuring out and planning for the outcomes that need to be achieved, the applications that need to be supported, the user requirements (which may differ whether they are in the office, on the road, working from home, or a combination of all of those). There are key metrics in IT that all organizations need to pay attention to in order to be successful. The first step in speeding up a business is gaining an appreciation for these key aspects so an experienced architect can build a proper design for your needs. This will include components like security, business continuity, disaster recovery, the local network, remote access, file structure, rights management, and much more. This can take some time to do well, but it is certainly worth it.
2. Network Design
Once the strategy is clear, it is the job of a technology architect to turn that into a workable solution that matches the budget requirements of the organization (rarely an easy achievement). This is an area that is very easy to “over geek” or “overengineer,” but at the same time, it is the architect’s job to make sure the design meets the expectations of the organization, especially in the business continuity planning portion. This should also include items like application requirements (how much horsepower does an application require, as specified by the software company), local network speeds, wide area network speeds, server requirements, computer requirements, etc. Once you start listing out the factors that must be considered, it is easy to see why network design quickly becomes a complex puzzle.
Once the design is completed, it’s important to gain consistency in a network. This is probably the area in which most organizations make the biggest mistakes. Here is how to gain consistency in three main areas:
- Technology stack: Consistency here means that the actual hardware and software used on the network needs to be as similar as possible because security, patch management, updates, troubleshooting, repair, finding spare parts, and many other aspects of upkeep are all completed more rapidly when the architecture is the same. If you have 40 computers (or 400 computers) on a network, and 5% are one manufacturer, 10% are another, 50% are a third, and the balance are a fourth, training employees and creating a recurring experience throughout the organization can be quite challenging. With hardware, you have to maintain a reasonable lifecycle schedule and manage your IT budget; yet it’s also important to stay with a reliable business line that meets the requirements of your business.
- Application utilization: Studies show that most businesses only use 30% of the capabilities of their core applications. To speed up a business, every core application should have a champion or specialist whose job it is to gain the most from the tool by learning the full capabilities of the application and applying them to the actual business and people processes. This includes making sure that people are all using the application in the same way, that it’s configured the same way for everyone, and that each user knows how to get help if there is an issue. The champion should also understand the updates that come out and provide ongoing education and training around the enhancements that are released over time.
- Workflows: This factor takes the next steps beyond achieving consistency in application utilization. It is one thing to use any core application, such as CRM (customer resource management) or ERP (enterprise resource planning) software the same way companywide, but it is another to ensure that documents are always stored in the right location (especially for security purposes). This ensures that users know where to find data quickly so that work can be achieved without someone searching for hours, looking for information that should be standardized. By developing these workflows and training on them consistently, you’ll find that your entire organization speeds up.
As mentioned before, most organizations only use about 30% of the capabilities of an application. This is often due to a lack of training on the application. Beyond that, training is often needed around security, compliance, technology best practices, and even other more common, routine tasks like getting the most from the Microsoft Office suite and managing email. Developing standards for communications (defining, for example, how to use the To: and CC: lines properly) will save everyone from attaching too many people to an email and cluttering up inboxes. Applying this same concept to each of the core tools used in your business will make a massive impact. Examples where this can be done are:
- Core applications
- Document usage and storage
- Naming conventions
- Office suite (Outlook, Word, Excel, and PowerPoint)
- VPN/remote access
- How to get support when there is an issue
5. Resolving IT Issues
There will always be challenges and issues with technology (at least until it’s perfect). Because of this, each user needs to know how to quickly engage the right resources at the right time to resolve those issues and get back to work. Many times, users will “deal with a problem” for hours, days, or months because they don’t know it can be fixed or don’t want to take the time to resolve it. When IT support is a fast, easy, enjoyable experience, people will be eager to use it, and technology issues won’t slow people down and prevent them from maximizing their day.
6. Business Continuity Planning
This is an area that often causes great stress and frustration between the leadership of an organization and the people responsible for IT. A full business continuity plan encompasses everything from minor day-to-day issues that can be solved with temporary workarounds to full-blown natural disasters. The challenge is when the expectations of an organization’s leadership (i.e., “We can get back to operations in 2 hours after a failure”) butt up against the actual design of the network. If a design is structured for an eight-hour recovery time, but the CEO expects a two-hour turnaround, then frustrations begin. Your continuity plan needs to factor in both needs and expectations. These considerations should include a work stoppage for a single user, a department, a location, and the entire organization. They need to include all scenarios that can be conceived, from a building burning to a ransomware attack, to a server failure, to internet failure. Once everyone is aligned, frustrations at recovery time cease, and the organization has clarity about how to protect your data and keep the business operating at expected levels, even during the worst of situations.
We could easily spend more time discussing this topic of using IT to speed up your business, but these six things are at the foundation of everything else. When they are considered and included in your business technology strategy, you’ll find that your organization will begin to operate more quickly—and, as an added bonus, you will have a great deal more safety in the business!
If you’d like to know more about making the most of your technology to increase business velocity, reduce risk, and create value throughout your organization, give Robert Walters a call at 844-44-JMARK or drop us a note at https://www.jmark.com/contact-us/ and tell us how we can help.