Technology has an important, sometimes instrumental, influence on business growth.
I’m immediately reminded of the impact that technology had in sealing a fairly handsome deal not so long ago. A global hospitality company, headquartered in the South East, had set their sights on winning a tender to supply all of the catering for a big expo in 2020. To win, the hospitality company needed a government-backed security certification, and their IT had to be able to cope with running across multiple locations. Securing this contract was significant for the company, an SME with around 100 employees.
One of their senior management team approached Epoq for support with ensuring their IT “ticked all the boxes” to win the tender. After quite an in-depth audit, new targets were set and the hospitality company began to make planned improvements, starting with business continuity. Their updated approach to IT eventually won them the tender.
Part of their success was simply a focus on early preparation: early clarification of the tender criteria; early identification of technological gaps; early planning of the management of IT initiatives, including design, delivery and continual improvement… You get the picture.
The hospitality company supported their approach with our IT service management methodology. The methodology is based on proactive IT management, which, as you’d expect, encourages you to anticipate what people will need from your IT in the near future. Of course, stakeholders involved in your next deal have a major influence on your plans for IT, whether you’re looking to land a big contract, achieve an impressive business exit or bring a different goal to fruition.
When you’re managing IT strategically, there are key considerations in each of the phases you go through, which have an impact on your approach.
As you’d imagine, the typical process for managing IT doesn’t look much different from other methods you’ve come across:
What are the key considerations in each stage?
Before you clarify what technology you’ve got, first be clear on what you’ll need. I’m sure this is nothing new to you, but it’s worth pointing out that some of the criteria for tenders and other formal offers are often unclear, which of course has implications on cost forecasts, estimated operational efficiency and other areas.
For instance, what is a ‘government-backed security certification’? More to the point, which certification do you actually need, what are the technical controls to put in place and how will your business manage IT security on an ongoing basis?
Another example of criteria to clarify are those that are industry-specific. For instance, in pharmaceuticals, data confidentiality and preparation for MHRA inspections are important focus points.
The next step is to identify gaps and areas of risk in your current technology, which is best achieved with something I call “information system auditing”. Depending on what you need from IT, your audit could have a number of different objectives. I’ve listed some of the most typical:
8 major objectives of information system auditing
- Establish your cyber security position
- Establish your regulatory compliance position
- Be clear on your disaster recovery plan
- Identify your financial risk
- Clarify your structural stability
- Evaluate value for money
- Confirm where your data is, what it is and how it’s backed up
- Assess your IT performance
The usual emphasis of this stage is to bring those responsible for day-to-day IT service management up to date with the findings from the audit, clarify the improvement criteria and most importantly, to set measurable targets for technology.
For me, setting “measurable” targets is the most important step. When I talk about setting “measurable” targets, I mean agreeing on what incremental improvements are to be made over a certain period of time. Each improvement is a step closer to reaching the ultimate goal, and increases your level of certainty towards how near (or far) you are from achieving your objectives for personal and/or company growth.
Manage and Measure
As you’d anticipate, after you’ve set your targets, change happens. New partnerships, revised regulations and shifts in organisational structure are all part of the evolving, modern business. Constant, sometimes unpredictable, change makes the issue of managing IT more complex.
The way you structure your IT service management to cope with change is thus a key consideration. Hiring additional IT staff with the right skillset or investing in software to manage certain areas, like compliance and security, is likely to form part of your approach. Partnering with an external organisation who have broad experience in the delivery of IT service management programmes is another possibility. Taking advantage of their best practice methodology enables you to reduce the costs of managing technology on an exclusively internal basis.
Continual measurement of your IT performance is of course a key influence on how you manage technology and assess your progress towards achieving your goals. Regular feedback on the value of the investment made in IT is also highly impactful.
A final word of advice
You’re probably not going to be particularly surprised to hear me say that preparation is everything when it comes to strategic IT service management, and indeed when it comes to negotiating anything of significance. With early preparation, there is far less potential to underestimate the impact of details that might initially seem trivial, and far more potential to stand out with a considered approach.
Further explore the issue of how best to manage SME IT for improved cost-effectiveness and efficiency, with a focus on compliance and security, in this free guide.