Few people would disagree that planning is a worthwhile activity. Yet, look around most companies these days, especially in the way they use IT, and you’ll notice that some are investing more time into planning than others.
Without a concrete plan in place, businesses tend to focus on the short term, ignoring less-frequent expenses, underfunding future productivity investments, and even missing their own business targets.
What every organization needs to keep on track and avoid having mixed up priorities with regards to the technology they are using is an IT roadmap.
What is an IT roadmap?
An IT roadmap is a plan that defines priorities, processes, and a budget to steer a company toward a certain predictable outcome. It can be used either for a specific project or for guiding the whole company.
When you have a roadmap, you have clear priorities. Do you need to replace laptops next quarter? When should you buy a new server? Can your accounting software upgrade wait until the end of the fiscal year?
Planning to set money aside for your priorities is critical to ensure predictable outcomes from your technology.
Who should use an IT roadmap?
Almost any company will benefit from having an IT roadmap. Small teams can use it to budget for expenses and plan for future expansion. Large teams can leverage an IT roadmap to reduce spending and ensure they are leveraging modern technology to stay efficient.
IT roadmaps also work across industries. Even if you own a trucking company, for example, you still have employees who rely on software for their work. They are doing dispatch, managing people, and keeping up with payroll. So, the technology they use needs to be fast, secure, and up to date. Plus, lots of traditional tools (e.g., trucks) are incorporating technology like GPS or mobile payment systems, which means more software to account for in your planning.
Within companies, it’s also important to make sure that key decision makers are involved in the IT roadmapping process. This will lead to all aspects of the roadmap receiving timely approval, and it would be more likely that the plan is followed by the whole team. Buy-in and engagement from leadership is key.
How to plan your IT roadmap in 3 steps
Depending on the company, roadmaps tend to vary in size and the level of detail. Planning is a flexible process that can guide you but also adapt to the changing environment.
Here’s how to start planning your own IT roadmap today.
1. Find the right partner
It’s essential to find a partner who has the right expertise. Most companies can assess the technology they already have. But it’s difficult to know what could be done better now and what would be required as your company grows.
The right partner has processes in place to understand your goals and suggest the best technology that would help you get there. They research and compare solutions, from software to hardware, to optimize your spending alongside security standards and efficiency gains.
A great partner can also help you establish timelines and facilitate the movement of the project in a way that’s difficult to self-initiate (or you would’ve done it by now!).
2. Assess your IT needs and resources
Once you start working with an IT services partner, the next step is to record and categorize all of your IT resources. This includes servers, computers, other equipment, as well as software.
Then, calculate the real cost of your IT. Logging recurring subscription software is easy, for example. But there’s a cost associated with the on-premises software too. If you need to upgrade your license every two years, and it’s $2,400, that would be $200 a month. Do a similar calculation for replacing your server, computers, etc. If you don’t know the exact cost, an estimate would be fine.
Finally, think through your future needs. How fast is your company growing and thus requiring more software licenses and devices? Do you want to upgrade to faster computers? Are there any other optimizations that could be made?
For most businesses today, moving their on-premises servers to hosted services (i.e., the cloud) provides the most benefits, making spending more predictable and reducing the time required to manage their IT infrastructure.
3. Bring your IT roadmap to life
After you have a clear plan in place, you can start executing on it in a sustainable way. Most businesses find they have “technical debt,” meaning changes or upgrades are overdue. These items will be more urgent, while some other roadmap items may need to happen over weeks or even months. Other initiatives may be scheduled months or years later, as current technology ages into replacement windows.
When changing processes or software, make sure to add appropriate training for your team, so they are able to fully understand and take advantage of new systems. This will also help avoid frustration related to change.
Regularly review your progress and make adjustments as needed. Have new ideas? Just add them to the plan. Now that you have a definitive IT roadmap, you have a track record of everything that’s going on in your company and will never be caught off-guard with surprise expenses (e.g., old server failure) again.
Where to start with IT roadmapping?
There are so many benefits to IT roadmapping that it should really be a fundamental practice for all companies. The biggest problem we see? Companies getting wrong IT partners.
The goal with IT roadmapping is not to necessarily spend less. The goal may in fact be to increase investment if underspending has left an organization with antiquated technology or processes.
Smart Dolphins has been partnering with companies across Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland for over 20 years. We know all the best solutions on the market today, from cloud infrastructure to software to training, and have unparalleled expertise in integrating them into businesses across industries.
Get in touch, and one of our specialists would be happy to understand your needs and advise you on the next steps in creating your first IT roadmap.