IT Planning: The Basics
Each business has different IT needs that will change over time. But there are a few general best practices to follow to make sure yours is prepared for those changes.
- Define what you mean by short- and long-term planning
- Clearly communicate your IT strategy to all stakeholders
- Focusing on saving money may cost more later
- Always think about what it will take to remove technologies or end agreements before adding them
- Look at what tools and platforms competitors are using
In business it’s almost always better to be proactive than reactive. That’s certainly true when it comes to information technology. But what should leaders do to approach their IT planning with a proactive mindset? It’s hard to know where to start, and getting a grip on such a complex yet fundamental aspect of business can be daunting.
At Handled, we have worked with dozens of organizations across industries to anticipate and address their ongoing IT needs over the years. Each one is unique, but no matter what business or industry you are in, there are a few general best practices that can serve as a starting point and guide for a planning framework. Businesses will always face curveballs occasionally, but being ahead of the game makes it easier to make a comeback.
- Define short- and long-term planning. It’s essential to make sure everyone is on the same page about what these phrases mean. Is a short term one, three, or six months? Is the long term two years, five years, or ten? Long-term planning should incorporate established organizational goals, such as a metric for growth, taking on a new type of customer, or integrating new technology. There’s no definite rule for how much to focus on each, but long-term planning should make up the majority of the effort here. The good news is that with better long-term planning, short-term planning usually becomes easier as managing IT becomes less reactive.
- Communicate the strategy clearly. Without a strategic framework that clearly outlines goals, IT projects and implementations may be abandoned or orphaned when people leave the organization and team members may lose motivation if they don’t understand the value of the technologies they work with or why they are using them. Being clear about the “why” behind decisions helps employees understand their purpose and promotes accountability for reaching those goals.
- Don’t focus solely on saving money. Cutting expenses is always attractive but may cost more in the long run later as needs change. A cheaper solution may seem smart, but it’s important to consider the potential impact months and even years down the road, especially as companies grow. For example, asking employees to manage analytics in-house may seem like an easy way to save, but the type of information and insights the business needs may soon outstrip those employees’ knowledge abilities as well as the time they have to spend on that function. Taking the cheapest route can also limit or slow growth, which can have a massive financial impact later.
- Think about the end at the beginning. When considering new technology products and services, approach them as you would a prenuptial agreement—what would the dissolution of the agreement look like? How hard will it be to get out of it? Do you get to take your data back, or does the vendor get it? Pin down client and vendor responsibilities for security and compliance as well. This is in addition to conducting due diligence regarding the experience, credibility, and reliability of the company.
- Look at what the competition is doing. Are similar businesses adding new technologies to serve customers better or enhance internal operations? That might be a sign that you need to keep up. On the other hand, each business is different, so just because “everyone else is doing it” doesn’t mean you have to. Even establishing what you don’t want to do can be valuable and clarifying.
- Evaluate your IT infrastructure and performance regularly. Scheduling time to assess your IT strategy—at a minimum annually, but ideally doing some sort of evaluation every quarter—helps to identify and address potential problems before they become critical. Even “good” problems or changes, like more users or a new type of service or product, can affect how efficiently your IT works. Talk to multiple people to get their perspectives, uncover hidden information, and build an overall picture of how well IT is functioning across the organization.
Would you like your IT planning to be more proactive? Handled works with all types of businesses to make sure their technologies serve their current and future requirements. Contact us for help or connect with us on LinkedIn with this or other IT functions and planning.