Must-Consider Technology Decisions in Your Annual Planning
Technology planning is a process that takes time and resources in order to ultimately accomplish what is best for staff and the organization, especially as the pace of technological advancement increases. The ever changing technology landscape can only mean one thing for companies: keep up, or get left behind. With time ticking closer to 2022 and annual planning sessions booked on the calendar, here are some key technology decisions to consider to set your company up for success in the new year.
Must-Consider Technology Decisions
Step 1: Evaluate current state and desired state
Analyze your current technology ecosystem by considering both existing internal feedback and any ongoing auditing to identify gaps that new implementations may be able to bridge. Map out a plan for the approach to new technology that will seamlessly align both culture and operational processes within your company.
Begin this process by conducting some initial benchmarking of your technology strategies and spending levels with peers that are leaders in technology adoption. Follow up on your findings by evaluating any new implementations on existing departmental processes to ensure they are not negatively affected and gauge the potential positive impacts.
Do everything in your power to prepare for technology upgrades by using your current systems to create and analyze forecasts; determine your current resources in comparison to potential resources for new technology and develop ways to increase resource utilization by defining the desired additions that will best streamline processes across the board.
The main focus here is to increase overall efficiency and productivity with each implementation. Be prepared to study data and other technological information to improve your processes.
Checkout this Technology Organizational Assessment Worksheet for different questions to ask when evaluating your overall technology ecosystem.
Step 2: Determine a budget and how it will be allocated
No technology plan is complete without a budget. Creating a budget is necessary to determine whether or not your plan is practical.
The budget should include estimated costs for all aspects of the projects you have listed. A common mistake is to include only hardware and software purchases in the budget. A good rule of thumb is to assume that approximately 70 percent of your technology spending will go to technical support and training, and only 30 percent to the actual technology purchases.
If you plan to hire a system administrator, factor in the system administrator’s salary. If you plan to use a consultant for regular troubleshooting and maintenance, you should estimate the frequency and cost of the consultant’s services.
Be sure to include staff assignments and time budgets. Although this may be harder to estimate than your other costs, it can help you determine when it makes more sense to hire outside help.
If your technology plan is divided into different phases, you may want to divide your budget into phases as well. This will allow you to distinguish immediate investments from more long-term projects.
Step 3: Assess the potential risks and costs
Risks and costs are two things you can’t overlook. Turn your focus to your available budget and the potential risk of adding a new system. If your need is absolutely critical, both for the success of your business and achieving revenue goals, implementing some kind of investment funding may be wise. Otherwise, if the need is a high priority, but not a triage situation, find a way to make it fit your budget. Weigh the effects of adding new technology – ask and answer questions like, “how will it propel business and achieve state goals?”
Step 4: Set realistic, measurable project goals
When it comes to setting goals for implementing technology, think about the big picture – what the end result looks like in its most effective fashion – then reverse engineer your action plan. Work backwards to develop each step that is necessary to reach each goal. Think about your vision for the overall efficiency and performance of any additional technology systems.
You’ll want to develop goals that will identify milestones, resources, tasks, and timelines specific to each project or each department. Then, develop goals for educating your employees on the new addition. Take time to define your desired results – where do you want the business to be in three to five years, and how will the new technology contribute to that end state?
Develop action plans for each strategy. Action plans outline specific activities or objectives that each major department must undertake to implement each strategy or achieve each goal. Objectives should be clearly worded so the organization can assess if they have been met.
Step 5: Data management and migration
One tough factor about upgrading your technology systems is data migration – or, the transferring and integration of your current data into your new system. You will need to consider this concept anytime you’re looking to add new technology. Be sure to identify and assess any potential threats to your current systems while migrating data. To avoid retracing complex steps to track down missing information post-integration, it is critical to take any and all necessary precautions to account for all critical data prior to migrating it anywhere.
Once the data migration is complete, administering a new structural plan is essential to assisting your organization on implementation. Make sure you have the right people, enough resources, the proper skills, and even the appropriate current technology to implement new systems smoothly and effectively.
Step 6: Build prioritizations
When looking into technology decisions, it’s important to ask yourself and your leadership team what the projects or departments in most urgent need of attention are. Once you decide this, then you can begin to research the right technology to help streamline it. The best way to identify the proper technology is to evaluate which system will meet your specific needs and focus on those first. Accounting for each process within each department would be ideal, though time-consuming. It’s important at a minimum to identify which projects or departments are critical, high priority, medium, or low in order to help you fulfill your company’s needs accordingly.
Step 7: Develop an implementation plan
Once you’ve established the risks and potential impacts of new technology on specific processes, it’s time to delve into the master plan of it all: the implementation plan. An implementation plan should detail how new technology processes will roll out – meaning not only how the new systems will be released and integrated, but critically how the team will be trained and how you will ensure that everyone is on the same page once the implementation is complete.
It’s imperative to introduce a precise understanding of the impact on workflow and operational projects for all team members. To do this, we recommend developing a communication plan prior to initiating any rollouts and identifying key project managers for each. Essentially, you should build a map of the workflow and company structure – where to report system issues, how the functions should work, how to navigate the new implementations, and who can answer any questions. Open the lines of communication and universal understanding so that each team member can easily access or troubleshoot information.
Use Discretion in Vendor Selection
As with any partnership or professional relationship, when you’re making a technology decision for your upcoming annual plan it’s important to consider not only the products themselves, but the companies that are standing behind those products. If you’ve taken the time to establish your company mission, assess your current technology problems, and sought the right solutions to create results, then the technology company you partner with should be someone you fully trust to get the job done the right way. This relationship will play a significant role in the future of your business. If you’re both in it for the long haul, it’ll put your mind at ease knowing you’ve partnered with a company who understands your company’s needs and values.
The strength of your results will directly depend on the strategic soundness of your actions. Be sure to see the big picture in order to recognize the significance of each small goal and action. Technology planning should be an integral part of every company’s annual planning process – a company’s longevity may in no small part hinge on the direction set during these planning sessions.
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