Developing a strategy

Are you looking to get the most out of technology for your business?  Provided below are some pointers on developing a technology strategy to match your business objectives.  These of course are general guidelines, if you have some specific questions that relate to your business please let me know and I'll be happy to assist in any way I can.

Why is a Technology strategy important?

We live in a technology society. Whether you have a keen interest in technology or not, every business, large or small, relies on technology to manage information and business processes. Using old, or inappropriate, technology for your business can mean:
  • Costs are higher than they should be. Running your systems may incur higher than needed IT costs, and inefficient processes may require unnecessary administration resources.
  • Service levels may be less than they should be. Poor processes and information management leads to poor customer experiences. Meaning lower levels of repeat business.
  • Sales will not be optimised - both from loosing out on the effective use of modern Internet marketing media and perhaps poor customer relationship management (CRM).
  • Management Reporting can be inefficient, costly/time-consuming to produce, and can be out of date by the time you see it!
In the worst case scenario, with the wrong (or no) defined technology strategy this can mean that you get left behind by your competitors who do get their technology strategy right.

Where to start

Even if you aren't the most IT literate of people, don't let this put you off getting started on reviewing and developing a technology strategy.  Doing nothing shouldn't be seen as an option.  Also, once you get started you'll find developing your strategy requires much more of a common sense business approach than extensive IT knowledge.

As a first step, take a wider view of what your business objectives are, and how technology needs to support your business.  Using technology for the sake of technology shouldn’t be driving our businesses, but technology does support what we do and how we do things, and also provides opportunities that we can exploit. 

Think through each of your business areas and map-out what it is you need / wish to achieve, and how you would ideally wish your processes to operate.  At this stage you don’t need to get hung up on the technical side of things, but you should address what you want to do from a business perspective. For example:
  1. How do you wish your marketing to operate across your website, Social Media, and traditional marketing media to form a cohesive ‘joined-up’ strategy and manages customer data?
  2. How will your processes from prospecting to billing operate efficiently to deliver service excellence at low cost? Think of what the inputs and outputs are for the process, everything in between shouldn't need any work or manual intervention to achieve the required output.  This is what your systems should be doing.
  3. Who needs to access information, and where are they when they need the information?  With users across branch locations, mobile/home working, and access to information by clients and candidates, the technology we choose will be key to facilitating this access.
Provided later below is a diagram illustrating the areas to address in your strategy that can assist you with this exercise.

    Key considerations for your technology strategy:

    Business Process Integration:

    Don't underestimate the importance of integrated business processes, and systems that deliver this integration.  Experience has shown that through system integration:
    • Administration effort in a process can be reduced by 40%, and sometimes more.
    • Processes operate faster.  Delivering service quickly with low administration overheads.
    • Rework and errors can be virtually eliminated.
    • Queries drastically reduce.
    • Management information across a business becomes easier and quicker to access.
    A key part of your strategy should therefore be to integrate your business processes within as few systems as possible.  The ultimate aim should be to use one system covering all of your key processes.  This not only provides the biggest process benefits, but also helps you keep your suppliers to a minimum (and of course ideally this should be one!) and this makes your IT management more simple.

    Running your technology: 

    In the past managing software solutions (if you could afford it) meant installing servers, networks, internal telephone systems, and installing software in your office(s). Then employing IT staff and/or suppliers to manage your hardware and software, fix issues, manage any upgrades, and (hopefully) manage Disaster Recovery back-ups and plans.

    With the Internet Cloud this has all changed. Hosted solutions provided on a Software as a Service (SaaS) basis now provide low-cost access to systems and services through the Internet.  These changes in software provision are revolutionising how businesses can gain access to, and use, technology. Allowing even the smallest business to use sophisticated technology without the need to be an IT expert, or have large budgets.

    If you are currently reviewing your technology it is universally accepted by leading technology strategists that an Internet Cloud strategy is the strategy that you should be adopting.  

    The only exceptions to this should be if either you require extremely specialist software that simply isn't available on a SaaS basis, and/or you are a very large business that can obtain lower costs of IT by managing your systems in-house.  However, even in this last scenario your internal IT team should be looking to services such as Microsoft Windows Azure to host the systems for you (rather than running them on your own internal servers).

    A 'checklist' for developing your strategy

    The diagram below illustrates a simple ‘checklist’ of the areas that strategies you should be reviewing when developing your technology strategy for a recruitment business.

    Making it happen:

    Once you have a 'vision' of where you wish to be with your strategy, think about where you currently are.  This will then give you an idea of the gap that exists that you need to bridge.  Then it's a case of planning how you can bridge the gap, and of course ensuring you make it happen.

    Remember though, developing a strategy is defining a vision of where you wish/need to be, and like all visions we have to work towards it and not expect it to be achieved over-night.  Unless there are critical issues that you need to address for your business survival it just might not be feasible (or desirable) to attempt to bridge your strategy gap in one go.  Trying to achieve over ambitious plans in one go can simply lead to failure.

    However, with a clear strategy in place you will have a road-map of where you are going, and can work towards this one step at a time by selecting the technology and suppliers that take you towards your vision.  To steal a quote "a ten thousand mile journey starts with the first step", so if you haven't done so already today is the day to take that step.

    This page has touched upon areas for developing a technology strategy for a recruitment business (but of course the principles are the same for any business).  As generic advice the above can't cover everything (although I seemed to have tried after seeing the length of this page! LOL), or be specific to your business. If therefore you would like any assistance in detailed analysis, planning, change management, and implementation for your agency, contact me for any advice or assistance you require.  I'll be more than pleased to assist you in any way I can.