It’s pretty hard to run a business without at least some technology, and most organizations need quite a lot of technology to keep operations moving. We’re talking servers, phones, computers, printers, Microsoft Office, email, routers, QuickBooks… and all that other tech your company needs to get stuff done every day. Here are some best practices for effective IT alignment and strategic planning for your organization.
Since tech is critical to businesses (and even more critical post-pandemic!), it’s worth it to take some time to figure out what you want your tech to do for you in the future. The process of figuring that out is called “IT strategic planning” and it’s not hard to do (though it takes some time).
How IT Strategic Planning Works
Creating an IT strategic plan requires you to:
Sounds easy, right? It is. But, as they say, the devil is in the details. So, here are a few best practices for effective IT alignment and strategic planning that’ll help you along when you’re ready to dive into your company’s IT strategic plan.
Let’s just call it right here: tech is freaking needy. All your tech products, and we mean all of them, require constant attention. If you’re not applying endless patches and updates, you’re dealing with mysterious crashes, missing files, or weirdly blinking lights. Tech can leave you feeling like you’re putting out fires every day.
When you’re creating your IT strategic plan, ditch the “firefighting” mentality. Instead, focus on long-term important stuff, like what you want tech to do for you, rather than what your tech nags you to do for it.
“Shadow IT” is the catch-all term for the applications you didn’t approve for your company network… but that your employees use anyway. Common culprits include Spotify, Dropbox, Google Drive, and a range of browser extensions, as well as business tools like Zoom and HubSpot CRM.
If you know what shadow IT you have, your IT alignment and strategic planning will be better because you’ll know what you need to delete or block, what you need to secure, and what you may want to add in to your daily operations.
Back in the day, the IT alignment and strategic planning process was usually completed once a year with the annual budget. After thinking about tech investment options, everyone made a plan… and then they stuck that plan in a drawer and forgot about it. These days, you can’t afford to forget about your plan – and you also can’t afford to plan so rarely.
Tech changes all the time, which is why best practices for effective IT alignment and strategic planning suggest that you keep IT strategic planning on your calendar as a regular task. Perhaps once per quarter or once per month would work for you. With regular planning, you’ll always be prepared to take advantage of emerging tech that meets your needs.
When you’re developing an IT strategic plan, you usually end up buying more tech. But tech tools are expensive, so you want to make sure your investment pays for itself in terms of saved time and reduced costs. Like most business investments, measurement is key.
You don’t need to create a bunch of in-depth KPIs to track your progress. Instead, make success measurement a part of the IT alignment and strategic planning process. Success to you could mean that your operations manager gets to take a real vacation, or that the internet works in every part of the building, or that you know your backups are safe after a natural disaster.
Don’t make the mistake of assuming that IT investments only include the cost of the tech itself and the setup. You also have to factor in people costs, such as training time, loss of productivity, and increased coffee consumption around the office.
While you’re at it, remember that any new technology will require its own care and feeding (because tech is so darn needy!), and that the more tech you have, the more time you’ll spend patching and updating it. To handle your increased IT management burden, you may need to hire a dedicated tech person or outsource to a local tech expert here in Seattle.
Need a Hand with Your IT Strategic Planning?
For nearly 20 years, the friendly IT experts extraordinaire at Interplay have helped a range of organizations in the Seattle area get more out of their business technology, with IT maintenance and cybersecurity services that really work. With the fast pace of technology these days (and the even faster, post-pandemic tech adoption rate!), a big part of how your business can get the most out of your current tech is to always be planning for its future.
When you’re ready to start thinking about your next tech steps, Interplay is happy to lend a helping hand. With Interplay, you can get your own Virtual CIO – a totally-down-to-earth, on-demand IT expert who will help you stay on top of the right IT strategy for your specific needs and goals.