by Chris Enstrom

3 and a half fundamentals of IT investment that every SME needs to know

Feb 29, 2016
IT LeadershipIT StrategyMicrosoft 365

Making decisions on your IT plans are often plagued with inconsistent information and a general lack of knowledge. Focusing your decision-making process on your business goals may help to minimize the confusion.

tech investments

Technology is the saviour of business. It offers real-time information about your suppliers, delivers a seamless experience for your employees and customers and is the catalyst for process efficiency throughout your organization.

Wait?! What?

If this sounds just like you and your business, you’re one of the select few that has managed to invest properly in technology. Unfortunately, for most, this is not the case. For many business owners I have worked with, the complexity of IT and the myriad of options only produces anxiety and confusion.

At the simplest level, your IT decisions should focus on one of three business objectives.

Mitigate risk

At the forefront of your IT investment decisions is understanding that technology is an enabler. Knowing that your business is protected is fundamental to operating efficiently. Having a solid foundation requires that your technology operates effectively and poses little risk to the business.

How many times has your operation ground to a halt because of a technology issue or outage? When bad things happen, you need a plan to keep your business running. Understanding the points of failure and the level of impact of those failures is imperative. You owe it to your customers and your employees to minimize the impact of system downtime.

This means having a business continuity plan. Should your core business systems go down at 2pm on a Tuesday afternoon, what processes do you have in place to ensure customer orders can still get out the door? Is your staff aware of what they should do if your inventory system is unavailable when the customer calls?

It’s unrealistic for a SME to invest enough in technology solutions to eliminate these risks. Have a back up plan, write it down.

Manage growth

Ensuring you have the capabilities in place to grow means you have a solid foundation and are ready to take the next step in your IT journey. Using technology to enable business growth can be challenging, but if executed properly, can lead to great things for your business.

Effective investment decisions are grounded in understanding the outcome. While we could spend the next 5 posts discussing the fundamentals of return on investment, it is more important that your technology decisions are aligned with business objectives. If you want more information on ROI, take a look at this series from the Center for Technology in Government.

Recent case studies have shown that those organizations that successfully align their business strategy with their IT strategy will outperform those that do not. Business leaders are now actively challenging IT to become more aligned and to provide demonstrable business value, such as:

  • Provide managers with tools and support to help increase sales, grow the business in new directions, and satisfy customers with products they can use directly.
  • Utilize emerging technologies to create new applications, and establish standards and IT plans that are secure and have the agility to adapt to future business requirements.
  • Help employees become more productive and connect their efforts to achieve business goals.

As your company growth in size and complexity, it is critical that your technology serves to support that growth.

Leveraging new technology

The pace of new software and solutions is accelerating. The proliferation of cloud, mobility and digital solutions provides SMEs with a myriad of option when it comes to leveraging new technology. The question becomes, which ones are right for my business?

This is where technology becomes an even greater challenge to the SME. It is also the source of perhaps the greatest advantage over your larger, less nimble counterparts. Taking advantage of new technology can make all the difference in delighting your customers and beating your competition.

And the half – the IT roadmap

The path forward really depends on where your business is at on the alignment maturity curve. This might not be the answer you’re looking for but it’s definitely not a simple question. Stay true to your business and build out a multi-year technology roadmap. If you’re not quite sure where to get started, watch for my next post.