IT expenditure is labelled in different ways depending on the perception of what it brings to the table.
The business relationship with IT has evolved over decades, where IT was once a shiny, new, cool and must-have toy in the corner, to being the necessary evil that at the same time as being the ‘bane of our lives’ is front and centre of our business operation.
It is sometimes a cost centre that finance directors begrudgingly allocate copious amounts of budget to but are clueless as to whether the business is getting real value in return.
The relationship between business and technology is a bit like a virus (sorry for the pun) which gradually extends its reach to every corner of the business. So is it possible to get technology investment right and make the most of it?
Why does IT have such a bad reputation for being a cost centre bleeding companies dry?
Vendors are constantly selling us the promise of IT reducing business costs, improving efficiency and helping us gain competitive advantage? But is this achievable or just another promise?
Can IT give your business a return on investment?
There are many examples of successful IT investment, many of those particularly over the period of the pandemic, where effective deployment of remote working technology saved companies large sums of money in travel and office expenses.
For many of these, technology investments enabled them to stay open. There are also many instances where Jane or John Doe got a new machine that just works resulting in a massive leap in their personal productivity.
Nevertheless, the path to successful digital transformation is not straightforward.
In fact, 70% of these initiatives don’t achieve the desired outcome.
So how can your business be a part of the 30% that hit the nail on the head of technological adoption and reaches the objectives it set out?
Getting the most of your IT investment
Ninety-two percent of SMEs believe that digital transformation is crucial for their business and most are already implementing technology-first strategies, or planning to do so.
So why do only 16% of employees agree that these new technologies have helped them improve their productivity?
Implementing new technologies can be costly and it’s a process that requires a great deal of planning and preparation.
Here are some questions to consider before taking the plunge on your IT investment.
What do I want from IT?
Your success is dependent on how well IT projects are executed. IT projects should be approached like any significant business investment because they are not transient, they tend to have some long lasting impact that may likely affect a business for years to come.
They therefore need to have a starting point whereby an objective or desired outcome is clearly defined for that investment. The project must then be managed with that outcome in mind.
How does IT fit into my business strategy?
IT expenditure should also fall within an overall strategic plan that determines what the 3-5 year IT strategy looks like.
Yes, the fast paced change in tech makes 5 years look like crystal ball gazing, however start off with a strategy and refine it annually or quarterly. This approach ensures the strategy evolves with your business requirements as well as market realities.
Is there organisational support for the proposed change?
You now have a strategy and you have an objective or expected outcome for your IT investment – that’s a great starting point.
Now you need to understand the culture of your organisation and its appetite for technology change or adoption.
An example of this is understanding what support your business has at executive level and how compliant your IT users are:
- Will they turn up for those crucial onboarding meetings and fully engage?
- Will they turn up for user training?
If the day to day users of a new system cannot be bothered to turn up for training what chance do you have of succeeding? They will not know how to use the system properly and will likely slate it as ‘useless’.
So the organisational culture and appetite for change needs to be in the right place, projects are invariably more successful where they have positive executive sponsorship and highly engaged users.
How can I choose the right suppliers?
When selecting suppliers, there are a few criteria which each supplier should be matched against in an objective manner. We have mentioned culture previously and yes, it is important to have a good cultural fit with your supplier. They obviously need to tick the competency box as well as having some good references.
One of the biggest factors is the suppliers’ approach to implementation and how they identify and manage risk. Will they have professional project management in place? Are they driven to deliver based on an agreed statement of works? Also, is the risk one way or are they prepared to share some of the risk?
Understanding the suppliers’ answers to these questions right from the outset will be a good indicator of how successful the project will be.
Choosing the right partner is critical because of the heavy investment in time and money that is required ahead of completion and ultimately reaping the benefits of the investment.
If you are working with the wrong partner, you are unlikely to be able to recoup any of that investment.
How can I anticipate issues and monitor progress?
As the project is implemented, it will move through different phases which may include, specification, design, installation and operation. It is critical to have regular meetings with the suppliers and stakeholders where progress is monitored, and feedback is sought or provided.
These meetings should be candid, and information shared in a timely manner. Issues should also be raised as early as possible to give all concerned as much time as possible to address them especially while they may be easier to resolve at the early stages of the project.
How do I define success?
It is important to build an acceptance phase into IT projects whereby the organisation formally accepts the project has been implemented and does what is expected.
Acceptance will likely comprise user acceptance testing whereby users will operate the IT system on the job and confirm that it behaves as expected. Ideally, every possible feature should be tested and nothing taken for granted.
Success breeds success
I am sure that there are many other elements that will feature in effective IT investment but if you can implement the above measures, they will go a long way to making your IT investment successful.
A successful investment helps the business and increases the appetite for future investment which could bring those sought after benefits we are sold by the vendors.
One way to increase the success rate of your IT projects is by seeking professional advice. We can guide you on your digital transformation journey to ensure the success of your technology projects and save your business money. Get in touch today to find out how we can help.
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