Mistakes to avoid to maximize the value of technology
Technology strategies overlooked
Technology keeps evolving to facilitate our life and work. Despite the fact that we have become so dependent on it, we still rarely see small businesses & solopreneurs taking into consideration the IT strategy and infrastructure as part of their planning prior to business launching.
A technology strategy does not only define the systems and applications required by the business but also defines how these systems interact internally (with each other and with the owner and employees) and externally (with external systems and customers). The technology infrastructure acts as the backbone of the business. A data management strategy is also necessary and complimentary to the technology strategy. You need both to manage applications and business data systematically and ensure their reliability.
THE RIGHT TIME FOR DEVELOPING A TECHNOLOGY STRATEGY!
When the business is launched and orders start coming in, business owners find themselves needing a methodology to handle the business tasks and corresponding data. Many businesses carry out a lot of their operations manually, which drains their resources and takes away focus from the core business.
To save time and money, setting up systems and processes is mandatory. It is best to plan for the technology & data infrastructure before the business launches. Business owners might not get it completely right initially but the infrastructure can be continuously enhanced. Even if the technology strategy is not planned at an early stage of the business lifecycle, it should still be incorporated as soon as possible.
Mistakes to avoid
This article, provides a list of what to avoid at the different business stages while deploying technology.
1) Not aligning technology with business
We focus a lot on the business vision and objectives in our articles. We believe these should be the driver and lighthouse for anything you do within your enterprise. Everything should be aligned with the business strategy, including the technology strategy. You may have two businesses that are in the same industry and seemingly doing the same activities but they wouldn’t necessarily have the same vision and objectives. One business might focus on customer service, another might focus on fast delivery, a third might focus on the quality of products and services. Therefore, a technology strategy would be tailored to each business accordingly.
2) Not establishing processes around the deployed systems
While it is important to select the right technology and applications to fulfill your business needs, it is equally important to establish processes and procedures around them. You do not want to leave it to the employee to figure out the format of that mandatory data field. For example, the quotation number in some accounting systems is a mandatory data field and without the proper instructions that define the required format of that field, employees might end up entering quotation numbers that are not consistent with what their colleagues are entering. We have also seen some POS systems that allow the duplication of records for the same client and the ability to put different formats in a data field for different records. When instructions (such as how to load data) are vague or non-existent, then it is not possible to generate the necessary reports needed to support the business decisions.
3) Lack of senior management support
For far too long, IT teams have been considered support units with minimal weight and importance in an enterprise. We believe that enterprises that recognize the strategic role that IT can play would achieve better and faster business outcomes. When senior management support the teams implementing IT solutions, the probability that employees commit to the utilization of these systems substantially increases. The last thing business owners want is to spend their money on a system that sits idle without any use in the enterprise.
4) Lack of training
Employees need training especially when a new strategy or process is introduced. Training is also a good opportunity to remind them of the business vision and how the new systems and processes are linked to it.
5) Lack of monitoring and follow up
Along with the technology implementation comes the need for establishing metrics that enable management to follow up the performance of systems and associated processes. Most business owners monitor their business performance and have corresponding KPIs but we don’t see many monitoring how their systems and processes perform. This monitoring is vital to ensure that systems are available when needed, that employees are utilizing the systems correctly and that the data quality in these systems is to the level required to generate accurate reports.
6) Reviews and audits are not performed
There is always room for improvement especially as the business evolves and grows. It is recommended to have frequent audits on the enterprise’s systems and data. This allows the enterprise to identify and bridge gaps early and fast. Audits are also an opportunity to identify opportunities that could improve the business. Beyond the frequent audits, enterprises would need additional audits when the business plans to introduce new products/services or when it pivots to a different industry or when it expands to new markets. Continuous improvement is vital and you will see the effects of this work in your customers’ satisfaction.