Current Issue Innovate October 2015

Increase Margins by Leveraging Your Technology

Written By: Heather Remer

I don’t know about you, but I prefer knowing what my expenses are going to be in advance rather than getting hit by surprise bills, and the further I can map those expenses out, the better I can budget. This is one of the reasons why developing a technology plan can be beneficial. A technology plan is a written or digital plan for how your company plans to leverage technology over a specific period of time. It is a proactive approach that allows you to:

  • Identify areas that need focus or improvement,
  • Identify opportunities to use technology as a competitive advantage, and
  • Develop a budget around when you will need to invest in new or replacement technology.

All good things, right? Absolutely. So, how do you go about getting this done? Start by getting the right people in the room. You definitely want your strategic thinkers who can recognize opportunity and don’t fear the technology on the team. At the same time, the best-laid plans won’t go far if you don’t take into account the overall attitude of your organization. So, it’s very important to consider how technology is perceived and utilized in your company currently. That’s why you start there.

  1. Take an overall look at your company’s attitude toward technology. Does your company view technology as an expense and a hassle or an investment and a strategic differentiator? Knowing this helps to set the pace for change.
  2. Review how your technology is currently operating. Review your technology metrics. What is the health of your devices and networks at this time? Are your systems being proactively patched and kept up to date? What about your antivirus? How is the utilization of your server? Does it have enough memory? What about storage? This will be important to know if you decide to make any software upgrades or implement other changes that may tax your server. What about your operating systems? Are they all still supported by the vendor? Do you have warranties expiring? If so, when? All of these items have a potential to cost you if they aren’t being monitored.
  3. Align your technology with your business goals. Know what your company is focusing on over the next period from six months to three years. Identify which areas will need the most support from IT. Is the company focused on driving growth? Increasing employee satisfaction? Creating new products or services? Begin asking yourself how technology can help you reach those goals. If you align your technology requirements with your company objectives, you’ll get the highest business impact and greatest increase in margin.
  4. What is trending in your industry? Don’t just look internally — also look externally. How is your competition using technology? How will technology affect your company externally? Look for areas where you will need to adapt due to external forces.
  5. Make a plan. From here, you begin pulling this data together to make a plan. Where will you need to make system enhancements? Maybe you need to upgrade your current backup and disaster recovery solution or increase the memory on your server so that you can implement that new software. Or, maybe the solution is to move it all to the cloud and just pay a monthly subscription fee. Write up a plan for when you will need to replace your equipment based on the projected life of your hardware, and keep those devices under warranty so that if something does go wrong, you aren’t paying for replacement parts.
  6. Map out your changes in phases. Of the changes you need to make, what is the biggest priority? When does it need to happen by? Set target dates and create an internal project to hit those targets.
  7. Review regularly. This is the least fun part in my opinion, but it’s necessary. Revisit your plan often (a few times a year is good) and revise as necessary.

Like a business plan, the bulk of the work happens on the front end, but having a plan in place can significantly help to create a focused precision toward your goals. Too often, companies don’t look at the big picture in regards to their IT and money is wasted, whether that be due to downtime from failed equipment or an upgrade that turned out not to be compatible with their network. Equally worth noting is the opportunity cost from missed changes to leverage technology toward company goals, increasing market share and competitive advantage.

Sounds good, but seems like more than you want to bite off at the moment? Partner with a good, strategic-minded managed IT provider that will work with you to design, implement and monitor your technology plan so you can focus on your core business functions.

HEATHER REMER is co-owner and CEO of ComputerCare LLC, an IT services company providing a full spectrum of IT solutions and services to small and medium businesses.

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