Technology is transforming the ways in which businesses work, with the connectivity speeds of Superfast Broadband providing a range of opportunities for exploiting new business models and offering innovative services to your customers. But how do you ensure that you make the most of these opportunities?
From the outset it’s essential that you establish a long term action plan for achieving your business goals in the context of a rapidly changing technology environment. This is where an ICT strategy comes into play.
So what does an ICT strategy seek to do? Well, it’s an iterative process aimed at aligning your ICT capabilities with your business requirements. Importantly it provides a structured approach that will take you from the ‘here and now’ to where you want to be, all the while enabling you to make informed technology decisions in support of your goals and objectives.DOWNLOAD OUR FREE GUIDE: Developing an effective ICT strategy
Elements of an ICT strategy
First and foremost the strategy should focus on the effective use of ICT in your business. In essence it provides a roadmap for developing your ICT systems in line with your requirements as your business grows and develops. It also provides an overall framework in terms of connectivity and compatibility so that any ICT systems or services you add are capable of working seamlessly with your existing kit.
In addition, you should also consider the following issues when developing your ICT strategy:
- Setting overall objectives – identifying specific business-related targets that the use of ICT will help you to achieve.
- Costs and benefits – establishing the financial implications of implementing new ICT solutions and the likely return on investment.
- Defining user management – putting policies in place in relation to the accessing, management and use of ICT solutions.
- Establishing your ICT knowledge needs – identifying if you have sufficient specialist in-house expertise to deliver appropriate ICT solutions or if you will you require external assistance, whilst also considering the ICT training requirements for your staff.
- ICT security – crucially the ICT strategy should include a security component that ensures your business data is safe and your IT systems are available and do not fall victim to cyberattacks.
- Disaster recovery and business continuity – having a policy in place to help get you back to ‘business as usual’ as quickly as possible following any security breach or technical/environmental incident.
- Timescales – agreeing the period of time to be covered by the strategy.
What are the benefits?
Having developed your ICT strategy you will, naturally, be looking for some resultant benefits. Here are just a few examples of what you can expect:
- Integration between your business systems means that you won’t have problems with ‘islands of information’ where specific applications can’t ‘speak’ to each other, for example your accounts system not being able to transfer data to your CRM system.
- Aligning ICT with your business requirements means that the strategy will deliver appropriate technology solutions that actually matter and add value to your business.
- You can make informed ICT investment decisions, so avoiding arbitrary procurement choices that might meet short term needs but don’t fit into your long term plans.
- The integrated business systems, shared storage and enhanced collaboration resulting from an effective ICT strategy will all help to streamline processes and allow your employees to become more productive.
One final point – don’t think your work is done when you’ve put your strategy together! It’s important to understand that the development of an ICT strategy is not a one-off event. The requirements of your business will almost certainly change over time, as you enter new markets, new competitors emerge or new technologies facilitate different ways of doing things. So, it’s vital that you monitor and revisit the strategy on a regular basis.