How do you get started?
We’ve talked about a strategic IT roadmap and stressed the importance of standards and best practices. Now, we’re going to get more specific and offer a step-by-step guide on how your business can develop your own strategic IT roadmap. The following six steps can help your business create your own strategic IT roadmap.
Step 1: Develop a detailed business plan
You can’t plan how to get somewhere if you don’t know where you are going. The first step toward a strategic IT roadmap is figuring out what you want to accomplish as a business. How big are you going to grow? How many employees will you have? What lines of business will you to offer? How many locations will you have? Ultimately, you need to determine what success looks like for your business in the next one to three years. That vision of success is the ultimate destination for the GPS (the roadmap from our first blog this quarter). With your business’ objectives in mind, you can figure out how to align your technology to achieve these goals.
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Step 2: Establish Standards and Best Practices
The next part of IT roadmap development is determining the set of IT standards and regulations you will abide by and the IT best practices you will utilize to achieve those standards. Many small and medium-sized businesses don’t have adequate internal IT resources or the bandwidth for this exercise. Consulting a partner or provider that has built a set of standards over the course of several years and is well-versed in compliance and standards for different industries can save money in the long run and ensure your business is meeting its industry and regulatory obligations.
Step 3: Perform a gap analysis
After you have determined your business plan, standards, and best practices, the next step is to perform a gap analysis to identify where to invest. Do you have the technology in place to achieve your goals and meet your standards? What about security—is your data safe? The gap analysis helps you pinpoint technology gaps, determine areas where your technology is not aligned with your plans and goals, and establish where investment is needed to help you achieve your vision of success.
Step 4: Prioritize and budget
Once you have identified your technology needs, the next step is to prioritize and create a budget. Important questions to ask include:
- What can your business spend now?
- How much is each of these initiatives going to cost?
- What should you prioritize first?
- How many man hours of time will these initiatives require?
- Do you need a new product, service, or vendor relationship that you don’t have currently?
- Are there parts of your current infrastructure that no longer make sense because they don’t help your business achieve its goals?
Few organizations can create a roadmap and tackle all of their identified needs at once. In the prioritization step, your business can prioritize and schedule what makes sense for your needs and budget. You identify where are you most vulnerable, which businesses initiatives are most important, and determine what investments give you the biggest bang for your buck and schedule those items first. You rank your priorities and then start to schedule those by quarter.
Step 5: Perform continuous assessment
The strategic IT roadmap is not a static document—it should be assessed quarterly and changed, if necessary, in response to changing priorities, market conditions, and other factors. Continuous assessment helps ensure that your business’ current direction is still the right one. Perhaps there is a supply chain issue that has altered your business plans. Or there is a global pandemic that keeps employees at home, and you need to invest in collaboration software instead. The quarterly assessment helps keep you accountable to the plan, ensures you are completing your goals, and allows for course corrections where necessary.
Step 6: Enlist help if you need it
If reading the previous five steps has left you anxious and thinking that you don’t have the right resources in-house to develop a strategic IT roadmap on your own, help is available. Find an IT partner with experience in developing strategic IT roadmaps and with expertise in standards and best practices, budgeting, and prioritization. Make sure your partner is committed to getting to know your business and environment, understands your market, and provides dedicated resources to help you achieve your goals in a proactive, rather than reactive, way. An experienced provider will have developed a process-driven, strategic methodology to help you create your strategic IT roadmap. As a result, you’ll receive a roadmap that is aligned with your business needs, goals, and plans and a corresponding budget so you can plan your IT spending.
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