Computers are enablers for better ways of doing business. We only need to remind ourselves of the speed at which we communicate and the volume of transactions managed by an individual in a business role. Clearly speed and volume have accelerated to make that all-important productivity gain that keeps a business competitive.
Unfortunately the IT projects associated with these gains have a terrible reputation for being overly expensive and failing to deliver the desired outcomes. Clearly not all IT projects are train wrecks and there must be reasons why some work and business persists with IT investment. Right now the demand for IT professionals is at a seven-year peak as large organisations get on with IT transformations to new technologies offering lower costs and better performance.
Some of the keys to success are listed below:
Get going with planning the capacity and capability your growing business will need in 12 to 18 months’ time. Look at your ageing systems and make plans to replace them before they are costing you more than they are saving you. As a simple example, if you are adding staff who use the internet to research or upload forms, don’t wait for lengthy delays to your staff before planning the upgrade to faster broadband. If a better service is going to take sixty days to deliver and your 50 staff are each losing 20 minutes a day to delays that is a real cost of 1000 hours, which is many years’ worth of broadband bills being wasted in the delay. In this case planning ahead could save tens of thousands of dollars for the business or potentially reduce head count by one whole person.
Selecting the right product or service before implementation is probably the most critical part of any upgrade or implementation of IT systems. Determining the real needs of the business is the key. This is about looking at the problem that needs to be solved and determining the cost of the problem so that you can justify the cost of the analysis and the cost of the solution. When the problem is not fully understood trivial solutions are implemented and often the entire investment is wasted.
Business case for investment
Once the problem has been identified and the product or service selected it is important to build a strong business case based on the real benefits the implementation will bring. This can include a return on investment calculation that lets the financial decision makers give the IT team the backing required to get the project right. If the business case does not stand up go back to problem identification and product selection to ensure the next step is the right step.
Don’t ignore real costs
It may seem obvious that real costs should be used. What is not so obvious in IT is where the real costs lie. Cloud computing is making real costs more obvious by building in security, backup, disaster recovery and so forth. However, with implementing a new technology or upgrading or expanding an old technology there are always integration costs and possibly development costs that can seem unpredictable when the planning and selection stages are under done.
It may even be necessary to do capacity planning on the new solution to ensure that it scales in a cost effective manner to avoid cost blow outs post implementation.
Set up maintenance to ensure it keeps working
Once you have planned your project well and before you commit to starting, ensure you factor in maintenance costs for connections, licensing and infrastructure including an allowance for user support and training. Only then will you get to extract value over time from your new product or service.
Avoid head in the sand
Every successful business has IT systems and it is clear that larger organisations need better systems to avoid cost blow outs in delays and failures. If you have been head down working in your business and have failed to innovate for a while it may be time to get your head out of the sand and call in experts to give your technology a quick leg up on your competitors.
David Markus is the founder of Combo – the IT services company that is known for Business IT that makes sense. How can we help?