Developing a 5-year IT plan
Every business which uses technology should invest in a 5-year information technology (IT) plan. A long-term plan will serve as your guide to making the strategic IT investments and decisions needed to achieve more revenue and reduce the cost of keeping the lights on.
Try to see technology as both a cost of doing business and an opportunity to do more business. If you continue to use disparate or old technology solutions to save on costs, achieving long-term success – even just surviving – can be a significant challenge.
A well-developed IT plan allows you to:
- Streamline operations
- Improve efficiency and minimise waste
- Focus on your core business
- Maximise profit
- Provide better service to customers and reach more potential customers
- Support better relationships with key partners
By creating a comprehensive long-term IT plan, you are making sure you have reliable technology that can support your business processes and strategies – not just today, but also in the next few years.
Build your IT roadmap by:
- Examining your Company Vision, Mission, and Objectives – By looking at your previously set goals and objectives, you can easily draw your specific goals for the coming years. (E.g. To become a “paperless” office, you should start moving your data to cloud.)
- Taking into consideration your business-driven priorities – Consider your growth plans (revenue, staffing, etc.), spending plans, sales targets, upcoming acquisitions or partnerships, and plans to lower the cost of operations.
- Evaluating your current technology usage – List your investments/accomplishments for the previous year (E.g. purchased a VoIP system). Highlight technology usage by organisational unit. How do individual teams use technology? Areas to check: networks, workstations, peripherals, operating systems, etc.
- Building your Technology Architecture. Define the high-level map or the overall technology architecture that shows the governance of processes as well as the applications and the infrastructure.
Using the critical information you’ve gathered, start working on your long-term IT plan. Here are some of the main components:
1. Goal setting. Consider where you want your business to be in the future. Go back to your mission, vision and objectives. The goal must be clear, realistic and measurable. E.g. “Reduce overall budget costs by 15% by (year)”, “Increase market share by 5% by (year)”, “Increase revenues by 20% by (year), “Increase customer satisfaction by 5 pts by (year).
2. Needs assessment/analysis. To effectively do this, you will need the inventory of your current infrastructure (or resource allocation) and a review of your current processes. Create a “gap analysis” where you evaluate your current investments and the level of technology skills among your staff. Look for issues and areas of improvement. Are you getting the best performance and results from your resources? Are there over-allocations and under-allocations? What’s slowing your business down, and costing you time and money. List items to be upgraded, items to be purchased, and modifications to existing systems. Don’t forget to include an implementation plan outlining the steps to be taken to ensure completion.
3. Technological initiatives. In order of importance, list what major technological initiatives your company hopes to implement. E.g. “Host non-critical data in the cloud”, “Create a mobile website”, “Enable BYOD program”. If you can, make logic models for the most important and more complicated initiatives to show how your initiative is supposed to work. Make sure your technology initiatives are specific and achievable. They should be processes or systems, not a listing of equipment to be purchased.
4. Timeline. Develop a list of steps to be taken by your teams or specific people to ensure that the technology plan will be implemented in a timely manner. Your technology plan should cover both short-term initiatives (to be completed within the first 6 to 18 months), as well as longer-term initiatives (to be implemented within 3 to 5 years).
5. Detailed Budget. Break down costs by year. Indicate the initial costs of hardware, software and training, if applicable. Which are one-time costs and which are recurring costs? Additionally, include the following:
- Value proposition – How much staff time will the system save or how much new business could the system generate?
- Opportunity cost – How much potential revenue is lost by not implementing a system? What are your competitors doing in this area?
- Risks – Itemise the risks of a particular system. What does it cost to mitigate those risks?
Do keep in mind that IT investments which are not well-planned may cost the business lost opportunities and money. There should always be an appropriate balance of investments to provide sustainable resilient infrastructure and modern technology systems that will improve efficiencies and allow innovation for your business in the future.