In the final part of our Technology Assessment Framework series, we explain why all organizations need an IT strategy, whether they are in tech or not.
Today, information technology (IT) is the heart of most organizations. IT drives everything from hardware—PCs, servers, phones and more—to internet connectivity, operational and back-office systems, disaster recovery, business continuity and data security. But many organizations don’t have an IT strategy.
The Problem: Legacy Systems without a Legacy of Planning
Even in large, established businesses, IT systems evolve, often without much planning. Companies traditionally focused on the job at hand, whether to assemble automobiles or generate electricity. IT did not initially play a role in direct customer interactions. It merely kept track of things like payroll and inventory. IT systems didn’t “talk” to each other, but completed their designed tasks.
Today, most organizations understand customer interaction is important in the modern economy, but many operate like older companies by focusing first on the “core business.” They turn critical, modern-day functions such as social media over to a marketing department while tasking the IT department with guarding critical data. But the marketing department and the IT department often don’t fully understand the business’s strategy.
The result? Your business risks having:
- Outdated technology
- Unintegrated systems
- Lost production time
- Difficult-to-access data
- Lost revenue, lost opportunities and lost market share
To complicate matters, a healthy cash flow can mask these problems—especially if the healthy cash flow results from low-IT investment. But it’s becoming harder to hide low-IT investment every day, and the market—and your customers—will notice. The result can be a lower valuation or even going out of business.
The Solution: IT Strategy + Business Strategy
Every business today needs to invest the time and resources to develop an IT strategy that aligns with its long-term business strategy—whether you are a tech business or not. Rather than allowing events to drive your IT decisions, base your strategy on your business goals, grounded in a set of core principles that drive your decisions about:
- what kinds of technology to purchase
- what to spend money on
- what not to spend money on
An IT strategy can even prevent you from making long-term IT investments that don’t match your company’s culture. For example, Microsoft’s suite of cloud-based systems doesn’t require local servers or other hardware. It built various tools, from Teams to Outlook, on a philosophy of easy sharing and collaboration. That’s an excellent approach for a lot of modern companies, but it may not be the best approach for your company.
With an IT strategy in place, you can:
- Drive innovation within the company
- Develop a roadmap for future decision making
- Prioritize projects
- Distinguish between immediate, near-term and long-term needs
- Minimize losses due to outages, disasters, and legal or regulatory compliance
Conclusion: Choose Wisely!
Here’s the bottom line: if you don’t choose an IT strategy, an IT strategy will choose you. Like the late Neil Peart of the rock band Rush wrote, “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice!” By proactively choosing, developing and investing in an IT strategy aligned with your business strategy, you protect your business, your customers and your investors, whether you write software or make lightbulbs.