Wiser Technology Advice Blog
- DEMYSTIFYING STRATEGIC TECHNOLOGY PLANNING
Demystifying strategic technology planning
Understanding your needs for information technology can appear to be an overwhelming problem, with so many complex and inter-related moving parts that you don’t know where to start. But there is a way to break this down into manageable pieces of the puzzle that demystify your information technology needs.
People and processes
Firstly, you must bear in mind that information technology systems and devices are simply tools used to run your business. The first piece of the puzzle is therefore to gain an overall understanding of your business, so that this can be clearly communicated to technology suppliers.
Analysing the people and processes within the context of the business identifies the capabilities of the business. These capabilities are supported by and influenced by the systems and technology the business has in place and plans to implement in the future.
The questions to consider when analysing people and processes are:
- What is the organisational structure of the business?
- What are the processes (at a high level) that are required to run the business and provide products and services to customers?
- Are there any processes that don’t help provide value to customers, or that are needlessly inefficient?
- What are the strategic capabilities of the business?
We need to identify what this business does really well for customers, that is hard for competitors to copy. This provides focus on where the business should focus their energy (and money) in their strategic plan. The strategic capabilities are those capabilities that are valuable to customers, rare, inimitable and exploitable.
Data & information
Understanding the processes of the business leads to an understanding of the data collected and stored, often in many disparate system databases, spreadsheets and documents.
Corporate information, used at the executive level for strategic decision making, is created by combining all the data into one picture for the overall business.
The questions to consider when analysing data and information are:
- What pieces of information are collected in each business process?
- Are there overlaps in data collection processes between different areas of the business?
- Is there data that’s entered and stored in multiple places, for example in documents, websites, spreadsheets and system databases?
- How accurate must each piece of data be?
- What is a tolerable amount of time that the business can do without the data?
- Who is authorised to have access to business information, how confidential is it and what would be the consequences if it was leaked?
- How is all the data sifted to create overall corporate information, that can be used for strategic decision making?
To assess the current situation and future requirements for technology, we first identify all current technology systems and databases.
This includes (but is not limited to):
- Asset management systems;
- Case management systems;
- Customer relationship management systems;
- Financial management software;
- Information sharing systems;
- HR management systems and payroll;
- OH&S and risk management systems;
- Performance reporting systems (e.g. KPI reports);
- Workflow management systems; and
- Web sites.
We must also identify all information, internal to the business and from external sources, that’s used to manage operations and to plan strategic business development.
Once we have a good understanding of the current systems, the questions to consider when considering future systems are:
- What are the future possibilities for systems that can add value and improve profitability of the business?
- Does the business already have intentions for changes to their systems?
- What are the trends in the industry for systems which the business can use?
- Does the business have a strategy for social media, online systems and mobile applications as part of their marketing plan?
The other aspect to technology is to identify all current infrastructure and requirements for future needs.
This includes (but is not limited to):
- Data storage devices;
- Network infrastructure (cabling, routers, firewalls etc.);
- Personal computers and laptops;
- Printers, fax and copy machines;
- Servers (data servers, web servers, network servers etc.);
- Tablets and other hand-held devices;
- Telephone systems; and
- Other technology specific to the business/industry.
For all technology systems and infrastructure, we must also determine how this is sourced and who supports it.
Another aspect of technology to consider is whether there is an adequate backup strategy for systems and information and a disaster recovery plan for the business.
For information that is stored or accessed externally (e.g. web sites and cloud-based systems), we must check whether a security audit has been undertaken.
Once we have a good understanding of the current technology infrastructure, the questions to consider when considering future changes are:
- What are the future possibilities for technology that can add value and improve profitability of the business?
- Does the business already have intentions for changes to their technology infrastructure?
- What are the trends in the industry for technology (e.g. automated manufacturing plant & equipment) which the business can profit from?
- Are there technology influences (such as cloud based services) that are worth considering for this business?
Strategic technology planning
After considering all the pieces of the puzzle, we will be ready to formulate a strategic plan for changes to the information technology tools for the business.
A gap analysis between the current situation and where the business needs to be in the future leads to a list of desired changes to technology for the business.
Prioritisation of these changes provides a roadmap for change, which is the technology strategic plan for the business.
Want to know more?
Please get in touch if you’d like my help to explore how your business can build a strategic roadmap for future success, there's a broad range of solutions and something to suit every business in every industry.
Get in contact today, I’m always happy to meet and have a chat over a coffee.
Hubbard, G., Rice, J. and Beamish, P. (2008). Strategic Management: Thinking, Analysis and Action, Pearson Education Australia