Ask any business owner about their financial goals, sales forecasts, or growth projections, and they might produce a comprehensive strategic plan that rivals a Fortune 500 company. But unfortunately, the technology components of these plans are typically woefully inadequate.
When you combine the fact that small business technology spending has been rising steadily for years and that cloud business solutions are a staple among most small businesses, it's puzzling why so many companies lack information technology strategies.
Perhaps business owners assume that having an IT team or department renders having a technology plan unnecessary, or they've become reactive instead of proactive in an ever-changing digital environment.
Regardless of the reason, the absence of a technology plan could mean the difference between long-term survival and is one disaster away from losing critical data.
What Is a Technology Strategy?
In its most basic form, a technology strategy is a written document that details the most critical aspects of how technology integrates with the business, its role in its business functions, and any future growth opportunities or plans related to technology.
Although these technology strategies are as nuanced as the businesses themselves, most plans include some form of the following components:
- Business objectives for how technology will contribute to the business' success
- Detailed records of current hardware, software, and digital resources
- Information technology human resources, including required oversight, regulatory standards, and data protection plans
- Itemized financial planning for current and future technology needs
- Technology road map for facilitating future growth opportunities
What Happens without a Technology Strategy?
Businesses without a technology strategy are prone to more than hardware failures or IT headaches. Even a small business with twenty or fewer employees is at risk for catastrophic disaster when the worst happens -- a security breach, a rogue employee exploits a weakness, or a physical disaster like a fire.
According to Fundera, "hacking incidents against small businesses increased five-fold in 2020." And yet, the National Cyber Security Alliance reports that nearly 60% of small businesses think they are unlikely to be attacked.
For example, the consequences could prove costly if a local doctor's office operates on a reactive basis regarding technology and doesn't work to put a technology plan in place. A plan that fails to prevent terminated employees from accessing records and leads to a security breach increases the likelihood of lawsuits by existing or previous patients.
Five Reasons Your Business Needs A Technology Strategy
Your business needs an information technology strategy, even if you're not sure where to start in developing one. The relatively low-cost financial and human resources investment is far below the staggering cost of a technology disaster.
Increases Business Continuity and Effectiveness
Even a local grocery store needs a comprehensive technology strategy to manage multiple vendor accounts, security system records, and cloud-based applications that allow the store to run efficiently.
For example, a small fire in one part of the store could shut down operations for weeks, resulting in lost revenue, job loss, or even closures if a technology plan is not in place.
While the plan itself can't prevent unfortunate events like fires, it can ensure your business continuity and effectiveness post-disaster. A plan that incorporates backup servers in offsite locations, remote access for professional IT firms, and procedures for how to notify vendors, employees, and customers in the event of a sudden event means that business can continue in the face of uncertainty.
Gives You A Competitive Advantage
Imagine two coffee shops in town, both popular and often full of caffeinated patrons ready to start their day. Next, imagine one of the businesses experiencing a major power outage due to nearby construction, and their cash registers are rendered useless.
Without a technology plan and tested backup system like mobile ordering and payment via smartphones, the now-closed coffee shop has virtually guaranteed that patrons will head over to the other shop.
Even without a power failure scenario, businesses with a technology plan convey a more secure business operation, increasing customer confidence. Simply put, if customers know the company has high standards for data security, they are more likely to hand over their credit cards.
Equips You to Leverage Technology to Its Fullest
We all know that one business still forcing customers to order by phone and refusing to adopt the latest technology resources that make our lives easier. Unfortunately, companies without a technology plan are not only behind the curve, but they are also missing out on new streams of revenue due to their inability to innovate.
A comprehensive technology plan helps businesses recognize potential sources of improvement and capitalize on new technologies. The strategy might include:
- Better ways to manage inventory.
- Innovative accounting solutions.
- Even security system upgrades keep physical shops and their people safer.
Improves Customer Satisfaction
Remember when you had to go inside a gas station to pay for fuel before you started pumping? Today's generation will never experience the pain of trying to guess how much fuel you would need to avoid going back inside to pay the difference.
Customer satisfaction skyrocketed among gas stations as they launched pay-at-the-pump technology. But, of course, today, we take it for granted and avoid any stations stuck in the dark ages.
The best technology plans incorporate plenty of room for customer feedback and surveys to consider customer needs. A technology plan created in a silo won't benefit the business nearly as much as one that incorporates employees, customers, and stakeholders who recognize the role technology plays in every facet of their experience with you.
Fosters Long-Term Planning
Technology plans written down before the explosion of smartphone technology, mobile-friendly websites, and online shopping might seem outdated and out-of-touch but now pale in comparison to plans before COVID-19.
Developing a strategic plan helps business owners plan for a brighter future and dream about innovation and growth. A technology plan enables you to envision how evolving trends and developments might impact the business.
There's no better example than the US school systems that had to adapt as the Coronavirus threatened the educational system as a whole. Thanks to the long-term planning of school boards and quick thinking to adapt and pivot, children all across the country are now comfortable with online learning platforms and realizing the benefits technology plays in our daily lives.
This long-term planning is beneficial not only for assessing opportunities but also in mitigating risks. A business that isn't planning for the long-term and monitoring industry technology developments may fall behind competitors staying on top of the curve.
While every business can benefit from a technology strategy, plans must be specific to the business practices and challenges it faces. Making a trustworthy IT service a part of your technology strategy can help mitigate security risks and help your business run smoothly.
Utilizing a qualified IT Managed Service provider like Alltek is a smart business move that allows an outside perspective and increases the plan’s effectiveness.
Whether you tackle it yourself or hire someone with managed IT expertise to do it, getting your information technology strategy in place should be a high priority.