5 Essential Tips for Incorporating Technology Strategies into your Business Plans
Technology is often the differentiating factor between failure and success in business. This is particularly true in the modern context where technology helps organizations leverage their resources for maximum efficiency and productivity. With drastically reducing costs and ease of implementation, technology also enables small businesses to compete against bigger competitors and not just survive, but win.
Incorporating technology strategies into your business plan, therefore, is crucial to ensure competency.
1. Understand All Costs Associated with Technology
One of the first steps you should take before even thinking about incorporating a technological solution into your organization is to understand all the costs associated with it - and its potential benefits. Some technologies look cheap on paper but add up to hundreds of thousands of pounds more in the long-run due to maintenance and upkeep issues. For example, if you want to build an Ecommerce store online, you might be led to believe that you can create one for "free" with an open-source solution like Magento. What you might not know is that even this supposedly open-source solution can cost upwards of £100,000 to implement, and require thousands of pounds in annual spend on hosting, content delivery, etc.
While you're figuring out the costs associated with technology implementation, also try to estimate the potential benefits of said technology. For instance, if you can sell merchandize worth £1,000,000 over the next year with 20% potential annual growth and 10% profit margin through your online store, splurging £200,000 to create this store would be beneficial in the long-run.
2. Understand Your Current IT Capabilities
Before you decide on a particular technology stack, carefully consider your current technological capabilities. Buying up solutions that don't work on your current technological stack is just a waste of money. For instance, if much of your business still runs Windows XP with Internet Explorer 7 as the browser, buying a mobile-only SaaS CRM solution would be rather redundant. In this case, sticking to locally installed CRM solutions might be better, unless you decide to upgrade your entire IT infrastructure as well.
3. Buy Only What is Required
There's a tendency among many businesses to go overboard with their technology purchases. Many organizations end up investing cash and talent into technology solutions that are neither used extensively, nor yield significant rewards. For example, a business that sees some 30 customer email queries a day does not need to invest in a fancy (and expensive) customer service platform; it can perform well enough with plain email.
As a general rule of the thumb, invest only in technology solutions you absolutely need. If you don't have a huge Salesforce or a large client base, complex CRM solutions would be of no particular use to you. Similarly, hiring Big Data researchers and paying for expensive data analytics tools is useful only when you have a significant amount of data to work with.
4. Chart Out a Long-Term Technology Plan
Technology is ever changing. What used to work two years back might be redundant today. This is why you need to chart out a long-term technology growth strategy before incorporating technology into your business plan.
This is a complex exercise that requires estimating your business' growth over the next five years and building a technology plan that can accommodate this growth. Thus, the technologies you choose must be flexible and scalable enough to serve your needs over the long-term.
For example, when picking a web host to run your Ecommerce site or blog, pick something that has enough room to grow over the next few years. Skimp on a cheap web host now, and you'll find that as your website grows, your host isn't able to keep up with the traffic, costing you in sales and customers.
5. Account for Maintenance and Upkeep
Finally, before incorporating a technological solution in your business plan, ensure that you set aside resources for regular maintenance and upkeep. Whether in software or hardware form, technological solutions require attention in the form of security upgrades, patches, bug fixes, hardware upgrades, etc. to run smoothly. Without a dedicated IT team handling these issues, you might just find your expensive technological solution unavailable or unresponsive when you need it the most.
You can cut down on maintenance requirements by moving your technology stack to the cloud. This will ensure that all software fixes and hardware issues will be handled by the technology provider itself, thus freeing up your resources.
A special mention needs to be made of security here. As you might be aware, a number of businesses have been affected by a spate of hack attacks and data leaks over the last few years. Investing in security, therefore, should be a key priority for any business that wants to leverage technology. You should have a robust employee education plan in place to tackle security issues, as well as dedicated experts you can turn to in times of crisis. Also ensure that you thoroughly test your current technology stack for security threats and plug any holes you find.
Technology can drastically improve a business' productivity and efficiency. At the same time, it can also be very difficult to understand and incorporate into your business plan. Hopefully, this guide helped answer some of your questions about technology strategies.