When you think about it, the title of this article seems unnecessary. Of course IT strategy should align with business strategy. As a business leader, you almost certainly agree.
But knowing that intuitively and knowing how to make it a reality are two different things. And that’s what we’re going to focus on here. Why is IT strategy so integral to business strategy, and how do you align the two?
The challenge of getting strategic with your IT
For many SMBs, a lack of IT strategy isn’t by design. SMB leaders frequently wear multiple hats, with way more on their plates than seems humanly possible. Not to mention the fact that small businesses don’t typically have a vast cash surplus just sitting around waiting to be spent.
These practical concerns—time and money—lead a lot of small business leaders to a simple (albeit unfortunate) solution: Make do with the tech tools you have, piecing together something that mostly works even if it’s not ideal.
That’s not much of an IT strategy. Frankly, you deserve better.
IT strategy is business strategy
Before we get to the tips, there’s a foundational statement worth making. IT strategy matters not because it helps with business strategy but because it is business strategy.
It’s practically unthinkable to do business in today’s world without the appropriate tech tools. And the solutions you choose will literally contribute to (or get in the way of) every single business process that keeps your company going.
If you don’t currently have an IT strategy, you’re missing a key part of your overall business strategy.
“Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of SMBs indicate technology is a primary factor in pursuing their business objectives . . .” – CompTIA
How to develop your own IT strategy
Now that all the philosophical stuff is out of the way, let’s get down to brass tacks. How do you go about building an IT strategy?
Below are 6 steps to get you started.
1. Know your business objectives
First and foremost, you need to know what your current business targets are. Do you have an annual revenue goal? A different metric for growth? A geographical region you want to break into? A headcount you’re aiming for?
Whatever your goals as an organization, you need to know those first. Your strategy—business and IT—should align with your goals.
“ . . . this process of alignment requires you to educate others and yourself to deep dive into the business.” – CIO
2. Make it about people
This may sound counterintuitive since we’re talking about IT strategy, but the best approach possible is one that puts people first.
That’s why technology exists—to serve people. Always think about how your business technology affects both customers and employees. If it’s inconvenient, confusing, disruptive or unnecessarily time-consuming, it’s time to rethink your tech solutions.
3. Write it down
As you begin to sort through your business goals, the impact you have (and want to have) on customers and employees, and possible changes to your current IT structure, be sure to take thorough notes. Write down every single detail. Seriously.
A plan you can reference, build on and come back to isn’t going to be of much practical value if the details aren’t specific to your business goals.
4. Be prepared to be flexible
Technology is constantly changing. The tools that are best-in-class today will be forgotten tomorrow. (Remember when Yahoo! was the go-to search engine? Or when everyone had a BlackBerry?)
Your IT strategy isn’t going to be a one-and-done kind of thing. You’ll need to remain agile, ready to re-evaluate and make changes as needed. Never get too attached to any one way of working with tech.
5. Take your business to the cloud
One thing that helps a great deal with flexibility is cloud computing. Cloud solutions are more fluid by nature. As general business needs change, cloud app providers have no choice but to keep up—and you benefit.
Just make sure you do your homework before going all in on any single cloud solution.
“. . . cloud computing has become an integral part of the overall information technology strategy for many enterprises.” – TechRepublic
6. Don’t forget about cybersecurity
Finally, keep cybersecurity in mind at all times. There are all kinds of inexpensive tech options out there, but not all of them are security-focused.
Before you decide on a cloud storage option or a new ERP solution, be sure to ask some serious questions about the security measures in place. Efficiency and convenience at the cost of data security is hardly a smart trade.
Next-level IT strategy
We have one more tip for when you’re ready to take your IT strategic planning to the next level. Find a managed IT services provider you can trust to assist.
An MSP can provide a level of guidance and support you’ll almost certainly benefit from. In the meantime, use the above tips to get more strategic with your IT solutions right now.