When it comes to IT planning, many businesses wing it and make random IT adjustments as they go along. This break-fix IT strategy may work in the short run, but it takes away the business potential of the IT investment.
An IT plan outlines how to utilise both existing and hypothetical business assets to meet long-term and short-term business goals. It’s crucial to have a strategic digitisation plan to inform critical IT decisions — primarily when, why and how to acquire, deploy or decommission various IT resources.
In general, IT planning helps big and small businesses to:
- Optimise IT costs
- Streamline digital business processes
- Minimise IT-related risks
- Create IT success metrics
- Identify, anticipate and remove obstacles in digital processes
- Stay on the right track to IT and business success
- Leverage emerging tech trends and innovations to improve productivity
- Encourage company-wide participation in IT-related decision-making
IT touches on every aspect of a business, from the workplace and product/service delivery to customer interactions. So, there's much more to IT planning than simply shopping for software or hardware. Let's look at the main components of an IT plan that ensure IT investments bring wholesome value to the entire organisation:
The first step in IT planning is setting clear IT objectives and goals. Which business processes do you want to digitise, or what problems are you trying to solve? Perhaps you want to take some transactions online, adopt a more capable phone system or expand your data estate.
After identifying the end goals, you can then envision the ideal solutions that get you closer to realising those goals. And from there, work out the best path and direction to take. This whole process is known as IT road mapping. An IT goal can be just an abstract idea; road mapping makes it feasible and achievable.
IT is usually intertwined with several business processes. Even the slightest changes to the existing IT infrastructure can ripple across the entire organisation. One of the most important considerations when making digital transformation plans is understanding how such plans might affect internal workflows.
IT planning ensures that each decision leads to more efficient or productive workflows. Adopting new technologies augments workflow processes by automating tasks, speeding up actions and minimising errors. But digitisation can just as easily hinder work productivity. For instance, using the wrong solutions can add unnecessary complexities to an otherwise smooth operation.
This part of an IT plan covers all the maintenance details associated with the IT hardware, software, or services. Take a third-party software application, for example. You need to know the kind of hardware and environment the software runs on, licensing and billing information, and the updating and patching schedules. Having such a profile for each asset gives you an idea of what it would take to roll out the plan, particularly when it comes to cost, scale and scope.
Business technology is inherently risky. In fact, cyber incidents involving digital assets are the top global threat to businesses, according to Allianz Risk Barometer. A cyber incident can range from accidental data loss and IT outage to cyberattacks. Given businesses' reliance on IT, such events can be severely devastating.
Risk is a crucial factor in planning IT moves. Ensure you understand all the risks involved in every IT decision. Since you cannot completely eliminate IT risks, the best you can do is lower them to acceptable levels by minimising exposure, enforcing strict security policies and implementing effective mitigation measures.
Cost management plays the most influential role in IT planning. Everything hinges on what the business can afford, especially for SMBs with limited funds. Remember that budgeting is not just about the price tag; you must also factor in the lifetime running costs of the various software and equipment. Below are some of the additional cost components you may have to include in your IT budget:
- Systems deployment (acquisition, installation and integration)
- Supporting hardware or software
- User training
- Systems operations (labour, energy consumption, insurance, subscriptions, etc.)
- Maintenance, servicing and repairs
- Updates and upgrades
An IT strategy is an integral part of business planning. Establishing business goals and using the available resources to achieve them is essential. So, take the time to formulate a solid business plan and involve all departments in the decision-making. And remember to continuously review and update the IT plan to include new business requirements and keep up with evolving technologies.
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