Are you strategic with your technology?

Being strategic is one of the most important approaches that a business should have for themselves, their customers, and their vendors to grow the business. Is your company strategic in their approach to growing the business? Is technology a part of that strategy?

Technology can be a huge part of a company’s success, if used strategically. Unfortunately, technology is only used like a utility…keep the servers and computers running so we can send our emails.

When I discuss strategy I’m referring to the principles, policies, ways of thinking that are used to decide upon and implement plans of actions, which will allow a company to achieve it’s goals and reach it’s future vision of itself.

Yesterday I saw repost on LinkedIn by Manfred Woodall, someone we’ve worked with for several years, of a WSJ blog post on how CIOs are often not part of the strategic plan of companies. The article essentially states that too many companies are not forward-thinking enough to include their CIOs in the activities of becoming strategic. Instead the CIOs are left to mind the shop, keep the lights on, provide a utility service of keeping the servers, computers, and email service up and running, i.e., simply keep the lights on. CIOs that want to facilitate a company’s success of being strategic have to do it on their own. Of course, there are companies that intentionally hire and initiate strategic work with their CIOs but this appears to be less common than one might think.

When we work on custom software projects with our customers we are often brought in to simply get the project done…fix this existing custom application, create that new web application, create a bunch of reports to give the leaders the data they need to steer the ship. Sure, no problem, we can do that, that’s what we love to do.

But more often than not companies often don’t have an established strategic plan for how technology (hardware and software) can play a key role in the company’s success. We get into conversations with companies that are on the verge of including technology in their company’s strategy for growing the business and sales. Prior to that they simply had servers and computers to maintain the business, simply keep up with the Jones, Inc’s of the world. When companies are more open to talking with us about their vision, goals, and strategy, then we can have some really interesting conversations about they can do to use technology as an impactful tool to grow the business.

If you are leading a company and think that technology can be a key piece of the puzzle to achieving success, what are some of the next steps? Here are a few keys to being strategic with your technology:

  • Vision and Goals:Make sure you have solid vision of where the company is going and SMART goals for the company.
  • Where: Consider where technology can help you. Could operations stand to be more automated than they are? Are there some key back office processes that could be digitized including hiring processes in HR, procurement of products or raw materials from vendors? Could a well considered and implemented CRM application have a serious impact on a receptive sales group? Is there a lot of high quality and highly valuable data in the company that, if analyzed, can lead to major new insights with your internal processes, typical customer profile, product fit to the market, etc.?
  • Consult your Vendors: Consult with your technology vendors, hardware and software alike, to see how they could help in the strategy. They might have some really fantastic ideas.
  • ROI: Look closely at the ROI of the technology changes. They will likely be pretty expensive. But if done right, the payoffs can be even bigger…they could be a game changer.
  • Plan: But sure to plan carefully but don’t over analyze…analysis-paralysis too often holds a company back from potential success.

Regarding considering where technology can help you, you could look at companies similar to yours that are achieving great success. How are they using technology to their advantage. It might be:

  • Moving from local servers to the cloud
  • Moving from local software to SaaS
  • Taking a hard look at the data you have now and doing data analytics
  • Going mobile
  • Putting appropriate technology in the hands of your employees, and so forth.

On the topic of seeking input from your technology vendors, please be open with them about where you want to go with your company. Share your vision and goals. Ask them their opinions on how technology can help. You might think they won’t be able to help, but you might be pleasantly surprised by how they respond and the ideas they come up with. If they aren’t able to understand what you’re really asking when discussing your vision, goals, and strategies then maybe it’s time to consider a new vendor…or maybe a separate technology advisor.

Strategic thinking is a huge part of nearly any company’s success. Technology can play a big part in that strategy. So, be sure to have a plan and consult with those that can help you, and you’ll be another huge step closer to reaching your goals and vision.