ICT Resource Supporting Strategy

Does your ICT resource support your strategy?
A. No. We come up short here.
B. It only includes transaction processing applications.
C. It includes transaction processing applications and analytical applications.
D. It includes the appropriate transaction processing applications and analytical applications required to support our strategy.
E. It includes the appropriate transaction processing applications, analytical applications and transformational applications required to achieve our strategy. 
[Score:  A=0, B=1, C=2, D=3 and E=4]
Why is this question important?

Over the last decade we have all witnessed the radical impact that ICT is having on our lives both at home, throughout society, and professionally in how organisations now do business.

Everyone is familiar with the ‘traditional’ computer based technologies – word processors, spread-sheets, databases, presentation software, graphics software, accounts systems, payroll systems, CRM systems. Today add in mobile telecommunications, local area and wide area networks, e-mail, the internet, Web 4.0, search engines, e-commerce, integration, data warehouse, data mining, software-as-a-service, cloud-computing, chat rooms, blogs,  twitters – to name but a few – and you begin to appreciate the very diverse and complex world that is ICT.

Several studies show that the “actual” pace of ICT adoption is slower than the “appropriate” pace of ICT adoption – i.e. that the pace of ICT adoption is too slow, especially for small businesses.

In addition, the quality of workplace usage of ICT systems in a significant number of small and medium sized (SME’s) businesses remains a source of significant unease among many observers, professionals and development and support agencies.

Predominant among the reasons for the poor adoption of ICT are:

  • poor usage of existing ICT systems
  • poor knowledge of appropriate solutions options
  • poor and inadequate operator skill capability

There is nonetheless universal recognition and acceptance that there are opportunities for ICT to make a real and defining strategic difference to SME’s.  It is most probable that in your business such scope exists.

It is recognised today that business and ICT strategies cannot be developed independently and that ICT strategy cannot be derived simply from business strategy.  Business strategy defines the core business of the organisation, separating core business processes from supporting business processes, which in turn are supported and underpinned by the adoption of appropriate technology.

The goals and future strategy of your business must come first and they will enable you to make decisions on the right course of action.  It is well to remember a maxim from the commercial world which says that “there are no IT projects, only business projects”.

Effective ICT management requires people to deploy the right technology in the right way for the right reasons, commonly referred to as ‘People, Process and Technology’.  The goal is to provide appropriate Information and communication technologies that enable everyone access the information and services necessary to do their jobs efficiently.

Your goals don’t have to be broad and ambitious – the aim could be something as simple as:

  • to produce written documents more efficiently
  • to analyse sales to provide:
    • Sales by customer summary
    • Sales by customer detail – product / service specific
    • Sales by region
    • Sales by customer category (reseller / end-user)
  • to manage your accounting and budgeting so that you have better information about your financial situation
  • to record your contacts with existing customers and potential customers more accurately and in more detail
  • to improve communications.

Ensure you express these goals in non-technical terms, and that they are set in the context of your wider business strategy.

Knowing what is possible

If you have no detailed knowledge of ICT, you have to find out from somewhere what the options are, but without being pushed by the technocrats into spending money you can’t afford on inappropriate ICT projects.

Key technology and operational issues can broadly be categorised as follows:

  • Messaging, email and collaborative technologies
  • Desktops and Office Productivity tools
  • Network operating system and network services
  • Data and voice networks / convergence
  • Applications and database technologies
  • Websites and online systems
  • Relationships management systems (CRM / SRM)
  • IT security, including: Firewall management, Anti-virus, Anti-spyware & Backup/ restore

Seeking Outside Advice

For many of the decisions on ICT you have to take, you may not necessarily be confident or up to date on ICT knowledge.  Yet you cannot avoid responsibility for the decision.  Don’t be afraid to take things step by step, and to make sure that you clearly understand the issues before making crucial decisions.  In many circumstances the only option is to take advice – the question is, from where?

There are many sources of advice, but good impartial advice is always hard to find.  The best advice will come from people who are:

  • technically aware
  • independent
  • knowledgeable about your businesses activities
  • concerned about the long-term strategy & direction of your business

Scope of ICT Strategic Planning

Where are we today?

  • Complete the business strategy plan, key performance indicators and strategy implementation for the organisation.
  • Develop a ‘strategy map’ and common language about the key strategic  activities of the organisation.
  • Examine the current information systems identifying what information systems are in place today and who are key users.

Where do we want to be?

  • Undertake detailed analysis and prepare recommendations for information, information systems and technology needed to support the business strategies of the organisation.
  • Review Business Strategy and Key Performance Indicators to identify systems to be significantly impacted by business strategy.
  • Identify issues and opportunities with in the current systems – this may lead to early wins within the implementation plan.

How do we get there?

  • Very often the success or failure of an IT Strategy project rests on the ability of the organisation to understand and resource the implementation plan.
  • Prepare an implementation plan to document effort and financial resources required to move to the new ICT infrastructure. The plan will need to be phased to  consider business resource constraints.

Technology_Continuum_-_Gartner

According to research from Gartner the vast majority of organisations’ processes operate at either level 1 or 2, with as little as one-in-eight reaching level 3 and just a few percent operating at level 4.