How will your organization use information technology in 2020?
That question was once the stuff of science fiction, but now it’s just three years away. While technology can change quickly, there’s no excuse for not having sketched out what kind of technology your business will likely need next year, three years and even five years down the road.
But a lot of companies don’t have a plan. Many of the companies that contact us — and I would wager, most small organizations and even medium-sized businesses — have never applied strategic planning to IT. As a result, their IT infrastructure is a bit of a mess. It’s hard to maintain and does not adapt well to their shifting business needs.
I understand how this happens. In many business executives’ eyes, sales, marketing, human resources, even accounting is of greater importance to the growth and health of their business. In this context, IT becomes an afterthought, just part of the infrastructure, with no full-time manager proactively thinking about how they could make it better.
A simple example is that most organizations don’t have a long-term plan for replacing computers. Instead, they rely on listening for squeaky wheels: when an employee’s PC finally slows down to the point that it warrants complaining about, then they’ll consider replacing it. But how much productivity was wasted before reaching that breaking point? Furthermore, without a plan in place, the organization often purchases whatever system they can get their hands on. Not only may this not meet changing needs in a year or two, it doesn’t always work seamlessly with their current systems — and then more problems emerge.
According to Spiceworks’ State of IT report for 2017, 70% of purchases of new hardware, software, and/or service will be due to End of Life. But as the report notes:
…technology upgrades can be delayed due to budget and time constraints. In fact, Spiceworks network data shows Office 2007 is still installed in 51 percent of businesses across the globe in Spiceworks.…Windows XP is still running in 56 percent, despite reaching its end of life (EOL) in 2014. Spiceworks data also shows Windows Server 2003 is running in 52 percent of businesses despite its EOL in 2015.
Small Issues, Big Problem
This problem extends beyond just PCs to servers, as Spiceworks notes above, and network infrastructure. Organizations don’t actively manage the hardware, which sits without proper configuration, missing updates and patches, for as long as they can bear it. New switches are deployed ad hoc. A mess of inefficient IT operations results. Little problems keep popping up, due to persistent conflicts between server, PCs, network, software.
It’s never one single thing, of course. Many small headaches eventually lead to a problem big enough that it can’t be ignored.
With no individual or team dedicated to managing IT, organizations turn to contractors to troubleshoot whatever is plaguing their operations. They find workarounds, and the business barrels ahead.
Until the next problem surfaces.
Plan to Spend on IT Strategically
Organizations don’t have to spend a lot on IT for it to function well. As a rough guide, IT spending at North America organizations is usually about 2.5% of revenue, although that figure varies widely by sector, and small and medium-sized companies tend to spend more (6.9% of revenue, according to some studies).
But here’s the thing: companies that invest more on IT don’t always perform better. In fact, as this article suggests, “the most successful small and medium-sized companies were more frugal than the average company.”
So how do you get more bang for your IT buck? You devise a clear, coherent strategy.
Begin by defining how you want IT to support business success. Grounded in that vision, you can plan how you will spend on IT more wisely and think through how your system architecture might need to evolve to be more adaptable to changing conditions. In the end, you ensure simpler maintenance, higher productivity, and fewer rip-and-replace IT overhauls long after systems pass their EOL date.
Sure, it’s hard to predict the future even three years out, and that’s especially true when it comes to IT. But having a strategy in place ensures you’re ready for anything.
Need some help auditing your IT and building a strategic plan? We would be happy to put our years of experience to work for you. Contact us here.