Earl Nightingale wore thick charcoal black frames, a thin black tie and a “Mad Men” suit to match. Radio listeners of the fifties huddled around his rich, gravelly voice. Readers of his books helped build his reputation as the “Dean of Personal Development.” A sampling of his wit: “All you need is the plan, the road map, and the courage to press on to your destination.”
Without exception, bold courage runs through the veins of small business owners. Most have a business plan. A road map, though, that’s something different. When you talk tech, such a guide can mean the difference between looking around your office wondering when your P&L is going to start sprinting – and watching it cross the finish line with grins.
First off, forget long-term strategy. Technology changes as quickly as teenage temperament. Think three years and less for strategic IT planning. Your road map is built on evolving apps, intelligent networks, data analytics, mobile technology, computers, cloud computing and a plethora of large enterprise-style tech tools that may be here today and considerably enhanced tomorrow.
Now, let’s reimagine your business. Let’s build a road map for strategic IT planning. These five steps get you started.
#1: Roadmapping 101: Create Your Technology Team
Building consensus among stakeholders is key for relevant roadmapping. 3Points recommends taking a page from one of our clients. They have assembled a diverse technology committee. There are no usual suspects sitting in the seats – and that is what makes it great. The group culls from leadership, employees passionate about technology (their smartwatches give them away), technology stakeholders, managed service providers and client-facing individuals. For companies with 30 to 50 users, the group should meet monthly. For 20 to 30 users, every other month should suffice. Under 20? Take a bigger break, and meet quarterly.
#2: Craft Your Technology Vision
Put your technology goggles on and dream. Really. For instance, you might consider wireless headpieces for salespeople so they’re not tethered to their desk, wearable sensors for people in the field, or more data analytics on the plant floor. Vision planning your technology means you don’t wait for stuff to break.
#3: Think, Write, Share
Take some time to think about your thoughts, write them down and come prepared to share them with your technology committee. Get the conversation going. Do a technology SWOT analysis and define the goals for the technology road map. How do you drive business goals with technology? What’s your timeframe? How do your competitors use technology to their advantage? What are your greatest opportunities?
Get the whiteboard out and start sharing. Be fierce about taking your business places further with technology. Less goals is more. Here are real examples from 3Points clients:
– A construction company extending the office environment to trailers in the field.
– An accounting firm maximizing its third-party software.
– A manufacturer integrating CRM with ERP.
– A law firm integrating its front-end with its back-end data systems.
– An architectural firm moving data systems to the cloud.
– A plumbing contractor increasing connectivity between mobile computing and the main business system.
#4: Inventory Your Technology
Most small business owners don’t carry around an inventory of their technology. Why would they? You buy what you need when you need it. Work with an IT provider to take stock of what you have: hardware pieces and applications, memory and mobile usage. Knowing what you’ve got to work with is a great start in the right direction.
#5: Create a Plan
Here’s where roadmapping your technology gets fun. Work with your IT provider to figure out the tools and resources you need to put your plan into high gear. Set down timelines, budgets, metrics and the path to pressing “go.” List each business goal, completion date, milestone (after all, it’s not a goal if you can’t measure it) and the technology tools to drive that goal. 3Points performs in-depth technology audits that give small business owners a snapshot of their technology and identifies opportunities for growth.
Possibilities abound for reimagining your business with a strategic IT plan. Or, as Mr. Nightingale once said: “People with goals succeed because they know where they’re going.” So let’s hit the road.