Maintaining an effective IT strategy is a crucial aspect of running a successful business capable of competing effectively in the modern marketplace. Now, more than ever, companies rely on information technology to maintain all aspects of their organization including their operations, personnel, development, and sales.
IT has now taken a more important and centralized role that an increasing amount of businesses simply cannot ignore, no matter their size or industry. Without an expertly crafted IT strategy, companies can easily fall behind competitors who simply outperform them with a more reliable and efficient technology infrastructure.
The characteristics of a competitive IT strategy can vary as businesses with different structures and needs seek to boost productivity, streamline their processes, and bulk up their network security. Below, we’ve listed some common features from IT strategies across the business spectrum which will help ensure that your IT needs are handled efficiently, reliably, and in a manner that best aligns with your business goals.
Keep Your Hardware and Software Up-to-Date
A quick first step in securing an IT advantage in the marketplace is to modernize all your business’s hardware and software. First and foremost, older systems tend to have issues with downtime more frequently and operate at a slower pace, negatively impacting operational velocity. Without an expert analysis from an IT consultant, major compatibility issues can exist between a business’s technological components.
Compatibility issues can also generate excessive amounts of help tickets. This can slow things down at the company and put a great burden on your IT support, whether outsourced, in-house, or a combination of the two. Businesses of all sizes stand to gain by modernizing and updating both their software and hardware as regularly as possible.
Moving as many things to the cloud as possible is also extremely helpful. As Chris Sylvester, Network Depot’s Marketing Director, explained in his blog A Visit to the Cloud, “The cloud frees up space and makes overall operations and remote work easier, but a critical benefit of using it is for disaster recovery and backup purposes… With the backup features available through the cloud at a protected site, a business can quickly restore operations and resume work at their current or new location.”
Utilizing the cloud as much as possible can help you to simplify and speed up many of your systems. This can be extremely helpful for IT departments and also highly beneficial for your other employees.
Bring in the Experts – Consider Outsourced IT Support
Recruiting qualified and skilled IT professionals to support your business is essential, but the cost of multiple experts can be a difficult barrier of entry for small-to-midsize businesses to surmount. Simply put, most businesses cannot afford to bear the cost of keeping in-house IT support resources on a full-time basis. Such businesses can benefit significantly from outsourced IT services, which has the dual benefit of acquiring IT knowledge and skills for their organization, while also keeping IT costs lower than with dedicated resources.
If your company does the proper research, and hires the right professionals, then outsourcing IT support to the right local IT support firm can allow your business to get competitive IT support and comprehensive strategy development at a dramatically reduced cost. Outsourcing can also allow you to significantly increase the total man-hours available to your company in one of its most crucial capability areas. Strengthening your level of IT support and committing your organization to modern technologies and operational strategy is a smart way to give your business the leg up on competition.
Having Your IT Team Educate Employees Through Training and Documentation to Reduce Tickets
Your IT team can take preventative measures to reduce help desk tickets through training and documentation. These steps will alleviate the dreaded problem of your IT department frequently getting completely swamped with help tickets. While it’s important that your IT department can resolve help tickets quickly, it is crucial to recognize when several underlying issues are causing many problems without ever being fully resolved.
For example, your IT team may determine that a bug in a piece of code is not allowing your company’s employees to log into the corporate network one out of every eight times. The IT team should address this root cause of many help desk tickets to quickly nip these repetitive problems in the bud. If fixing the root problem is prioritized, then this will save IT employees from having to deal with multiple tickets and to manually log in employees throughout the day. This method will make better use of the valuable time of your IT resources.
IT professionals should always be looking for underlying problems that they can fix in order to reduce the overall number of help tickets that arise. This will help them function much more efficiently and reduce extra work. It also means that the company as a whole will be able to operate with greater efficiency, which is essential for a successful business.
Holding Regular Meetings To Discuss Your IT Infrastructure
IT departments are like any other department in a business such as sales, accounting, or HR, so it follows that a monthly or quarterly meeting should be held with the entire IT team, as with these other critical departments. These regular meetings allow leaders to communicate relevant matters and set the important expectations for team members in the future.
These regular meetings also give managers an opportunity to provide feedback to the team, so that any major issues can be addressed. Having this open communication helps to keep the entire IT department organized and on the same page. This will also help to prevent IT employees from focusing on the wrong things, or wasting energy on tasks that managers do not indicate are priorities for the companies.
Furthermore, during these meetings, IT team members can address any issues that they may be having with managers. For example, a particular strategy or method of doing something may not be working and managers need to be made aware of these issues. Regular meetings allow valuable communication to occur between managers and team members that may not otherwise take place. This regular healthy exchange of issues and ideas will help make the entire IT department more efficient.
If IT team members are located in different areas or even different countries, then these meetings can take place with video chatting or conference calling.
Develop and Maintain a Strategic Technology Road Map
After conferring with your leadership team to establish a higher view of your strategies and goals for both your business and IT, you should seek to develop a road map for your technological capabilities. Begin by developing a concise, clear understanding of the current state of your technological capabilities, including all software, hardware, and personnel. Formalize this information into structured documentation and then define your objectives and goals for these capability areas. From there, you have the start and destination of your road map—now you just need to figure out how to get from A to B!
A good place to start defining the steps for your road map is with a technology gap analysis. A gap analysis will assist your team in identifying any clear shortcomings or obstacles between your current capability state and your technological end-goals. A thorough gap analysis will evaluate organizational capabilities and needs on its way to developing a technical solution that fits the specific needs and characteristics of your business. This analysis may find that significant internal architectural changes to your organization are necessary to achieve your goals.
A road map is especially beneficial to help guide the decisions of leadership and management regarding new technology deployment and to evaluate the opportunity cost of implementing new systems or features. It is important to remember that your road map is not meant to be the end all-be all solution for all questions and issues that may arise as your organization grows—rather, it serves as a guide to supplement decision making and keep the general direction and overlying objectives in focus for your team.
Most businesses can only operate as well as their IT departments, (whether internal or outsourced), can resolve issues. In addition, having a well-thought out plan for your technology to scale effectively with your business is essential to remain competitive in times of change. If you don’t feel confident in your IT capabilities in either of these capacities, then your organization stands to benefit substantially by developing a competitive IT strategy with the help of a professional IT consultant or support provider.
Even if you just implement one or a few of these essential features, it can have a substantial positive impact on your business. For example, if you outsource your IT support, then it could save your company a substantial amount of money every year without sacrificing quality.
Creating sweeping changes to your IT strategy or developing your first comprehensive IT strategy may not come easily at first. You may even get some push back from members of your team, especially senior members in leadership. However, an efficient, solution-based, scalable IT support team is crucial to remain competitive in the modern marketplace. Now is the right time for your company to get focused on your IT strategy and to develop a comprehensive plan for the future.