It might very well be on your radar, but you’ve been putting it off. Or maybe you’re the type who doesn’t like “strategy” as you feel it boxes you in and reduces opportunity and agility. Either way, you at least need a plan.
When starting a business, or as a new startup grows, there are so many things that take the owners attention.
FInance, marketing, product development, customer service… The list is almost endless.
It’s here, in the early days, that many of the mindsets and company cultures are formed. Like a child turning into an adult, it’s also here that much of the “personality” of the company is created.
Money, Money, Money
No surprise then, since money is so often in shortage, that non-essential costs are reduced as far as possible. Business IT, and the attendant budget, is normally scant and very simple. To be honest, this is as it should be. Yes, you heard me right – it makes perfect sense. In those first few years, unless the company needs specific technology to operate, the IT equipment should be as simple as possible. It needs flexibility baked in. An example. The owner’s laptop dies. They just go out and buy another one (low cost!). The super-cheap internet line goes down. They beg Wi-Fi access from next door or hook up their phone as a 4G wireless router. Simple problems normally have simple solutions.
Fast forward three years. The business has expanded to 7 employees. Turnover and profitability are on the up. There is even some spare cash. Those little business niggles are being fixed one by one. Guess what’s last on the list? Yep, IT. That dodgy internet line that goes down twice a day has become the office joke. Slow computers are the norm and company documents are spread over email, free cloud services, and USB sticks.
Time travel two more years into the future and the company is at 15 employees. Sure there may be a better internet connection now, but the mindset, the attitude, to IT is still the same. It’s on the back burner.
Sooner or later, it’s going to bite the company, and bite hard. some vital process will unravel. Some key elements of the business will stall. The same flexible, laid back, approach to IT will cause a tangible issue. That CMS system that you really need? Won’t work with your systems. That big new prospect insists on good IT contingency planning? They walk away.
IT strategy planning made simple
Step forward IT planning. While no one knows what’s around the corner, you can plan with a “hope for the best, plan for the worst” mentality. From day one your IT strategy needs to be written down as part of your business plan. It doesn’t need to be “war and peace”, but you do need to know what part IT will play in your organisation over a longer-term period. What basic platform will you use? Will it scale with the most optimistic of your grown forecasts? “It should be a dynamic process that changes on a regular basis,” Andy Bailey, US business coach at firm Petra Coach, says, “The faster you grow, the more often you update it.” You need an IT budget, even in that tight first year. How can you allocate a budget if you haven’t got some idea of what you might need?
So, keep it low cost for sure. But don’t mistake low cost for low planning. Does this sound like your business? Would you like some advice on IT planning? Please do get in contact.