We all strive for growth within our businesses. It is, after all, an indicator that you’re making the right decisions, and that there’s a wider interest in the products or services your business provides.
However, with growth comes great responsibility and a whole wealth of problems, one of which is keeping track of the IT infrastructure you have throughout the organisation. This is often easier said than done, especially when an organisation grows internationally and has a number of disparate physical locations that each require infrastructures of their own.
For growth to be sustained over a long period of time, it’s essential that IT infrastructure is taken into account. Yet many growing companies find that a lack of advice and knowledge around IT has prevented them from effectively scaling up their infrastructure to help meet their business targets. Therefore, here are four tips for those looking to strategically manage their IT infrastructure.
Keeping out the bad guys
Generic health and safety laws dictate how business owners have an inherent responsibility to take appropriate steps to keep employees safe from harm. However, due to increasingly stringent regulations – such as the imminent introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) – they must also ensure they take all the appropriate steps to protect the data within their business. This is critical, especially if you hold a lot of user-identifiable information.
The days when simply relying on a firewall to provide suitable protection have passed. Boards now need to look at proactive security measures that ensure frequent reviews of security-related logs (most applications create a list of failed logon attempts and other activities which could show an emerging cyber-attack), and perform regular vulnerability scanning to identify possible risks.
Asking for help
Never be afraid to ask for help. Rapidly growing businesses often try to be the jack of all trades, but only the best business leaders accept that there may be others more skilled in certain areas that can help. When it comes to their IT infrastructures, it is often wise for businesses to turn to a third-party provider that can promise dedicated IT strategy management. By having an external team on hand with the relevant knowledge to ensure that their IT and business strategies are aligned, they will be able to make sure they’re future-proofed and ready to accommodate further growth.
Working with a IT provider comes with four main benefits:
· Speed — While it is possible to work on aligning your IT strategy without the help of an external company, it can be a sluggish and time-consuming process that often requires plenty of specialist IT knowledge. However, by choosing to work with an external IT service, the overall strategy implementation can be rapidly accelerated. More experience equals faster growth.
· User experience — Even if you choose to take control of your IT strategy yourself, there’s no guarantee that the end product will result in a smooth user experience for everyone. But, by handing over the reins to a bonafide IT provider, they can provide a user experience that’s tailored to the specific users within your business. Plus, with less time wasted trying to navigate around the platform, you’ll benefit from increased efficiency and productivity.
· Security — As soon as a business decides to change IT platform, risks and vulnerabilities appear that can easily be taken advantage of by hackers or malicious individuals. While these might go unnoticed by a lot of businesses, IT providers will be more than aware of the threats and will plan accordingly in advance to ensure that risks are mitigated.
· Cost — Replacing an IT infrastructure can be very expensive, especially if you’re not knowledgeable about the services and equipment available. But by ensuring that any investment is in-line with the overall business strategy, the right IT provider can help to
Write it down
Not all IT providers offer strategy management as a service, so do your research to find the best partner for your needs. Certain IT providers make a point of building strategy management into their core offerings, and provide intuitive dashboards and dynamic roadmaps that show the business risks, recommendations and strategic initiatives in one place. If you can find an IT provider that can deliver all of this in one package, you’ll be one more step closer to sustained growth.
Whether working with a partner or not, it is always recommended that you formalise your IT strategy in a written document or balanced scorecard strategy map. The plan and its documentation should be flexible enough to change in response to new organisational circumstances and business priorities, budgetary constraints, available skill sets and core competencies, new technologies and a growing understanding of user needs and business objectives.
Empathy is key
It is important to understand the heartbeat of your organisation and closely monitor and measure your IT infrastructure. By having visibility of what is happening to systems across your entire IT estate, you can ensure that the technology you have in place is the right one to match your over-riding business goals.
If you are outsourcing this task to a third party, make sure they get under the skin of what it is you want to achieve as a business; that way they will always have an eye on whether the IT infrastructure you have in place is correct for your organisation and your evolving needs. Empathy here is key. At its core, your IT infrastructure should accurately mirror your overarching business goals and operational requirements.
Whether you are lucky enough to be on an upward growth trajectory or not, now is the time to add IT strategy management to the top of your agenda. Make sure you formalise your strategy by writing it down and commit to a list of actions. Most of all, by ensuring you have visibility of what is happening across your entire IT estate you can better align your technology spend to your overriding business goals.
Gavin Russell, CEO, Wavex
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