In our last post, we discussed the rapid advances in information technology that are taking the business world by storm and highlighted the need to keep pace with IT by making it part of your strategic plan. That’s often easier said than done, however, unless you incorporate it fully and maintain a strong focus of the overall strategy.
Here are our tips for keeping IT top of mind and staying abreast with everything—regardless of how much it changes:
#1: Maintain Your Awareness
The most daunting aspect of technology is the speed at which it progresses. To keep your IT strategy up to date, you’ll need to set up systems that can keep you informed about new developments and how they affect your industry. Create alerts, sign up for RSS feeds, join discussion forums and follow industry publications on social media for ongoing news and information as it hits cyberspace. Web sites that provide relevant news include:
These are all ready to report the latest developments almost as fast as they happen. It’s up to you to determine whether there’s anything that can help you in your IT strategy.
#2: Review Needs Regularly
It’s difficult to see how you’ll be able to use new developments unless you are aware of your needs and any weak areas in your operation. Conduct a SWOT analysis of your network and e-commerce applications every quarter to identify where and how you could be doing things more efficiently, and prioritize areas where you see weaknesses in your processes.
#3: Gather Information
One of the benefits of the trend towards content marketing is the amount of information available in the public sphere:
- Research the needs you identify and find out what other companies are doing in similar situations.
- Download materials covering new IT trends to see what correlation there is between your problems and the solutions available.
- Consult with sales people and request proposals to find out what can be done and how much it will cost.
If possible, organize demonstrations by service providers using your specific challenges as an example, so you know before you buy whether the solution is going to fit your needs precisely.
#4: Look for Attractive Opportunities
As a small business, you may not have the funds available to invest in major technological breakthroughs in your IT strategy. What you can very likely do, however, is make the most of trial opportunities, special offers, and rentals to avoid paying full price until you’re sure it’s working for you. Far too often, customers buy programs and software that they expect to revolutionize their systems and find it doesn’t work for them because it’s too complex for the staff to use, or it doesn’t have a particular feature. Before you go to the effort and expense of migrating all your data over to a new system, make sure it’s doing everything you need it to.
#5: Make Resources Available
Don’t wait until you need something to try and find the money for it. Allocate an amount to upgrading and maintaining your IT strategy in each annual budget. Set the funds aside so you don’t have to wait when the time comes and you have a great pricing opportunity or promotion. That will also ensure that you’re ready when and if a major threat surfaces or you fall victim to a cyber attack that requires immediate attention. Remember, if it can happen to Target it can happen to anyone!
#6: Keep an Eye on Threats
Read carefully all news about threats experienced by other companies. You may be way off base, but they can give you clues and educate you as to what the possibilities are. Don’t exist in ignorance simply because you don’t understand some of the jargon; get someone with the right skills and capabilities to explain it and consider whether the events hold any threat for your operations. If so, take action immediately. Even if you don’t think your company is on the radar of the bad guys, it’s not worth waiting to find out.
By implementing a strategic approach to keeping abreast of technology, it’s possible to ensure that your company operations are protected at all times from most of the recent threats and that you make the most of advances to improve the way you do things.