8 Key Items Needed For A Solid Business Technology Plan
Creating a solid business technology plan can be daunting. This article aims to help you with the process of creating organization-wide technology plans. Whether you’re a small business owner, manager, or aspiring CTO/CIO you’ll likely need to know how to write a solid technology plan. Here are the 8 key items you must include (and a example business technology plan outline at the end).
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1. Executive Sponsor
Having an executive sponsor is critical for the success of any organization-wide project. Creating, implementing, and executing a technology plan is no different. You must have buy-in from the top. Without it, you’ll run into issues with available resources and get push-back on any changes you want to implement. Having the executives, and/or Board of Directors, on your side will make this entire process feasible.
“Organizations have finite resources. Therefore your program must compete to get investment. If your program is a top 5 business priority with a committed executive sponsor who actively, verbally and visibly funds, promotes and backs the program then you are home in a boat. Of course, you need to deliver on the promises you made and more to keep this support. If you don’t have an executive sponsor then it is possible to succeed from the grass roots up but only for a while. The moment organizations struggle for cash your program will most likely get cut as you have no one to defend it.”– Kieran Gilmurray, Global Head of Intelligent Automation
2. Center of Excellence (CoE)
You’ll also need a cross-functional team. Implementing new technology and bringing processes into the 21st century will require input from members across departments. An executive sponsor is not enough, you must have a team that reaches into every aspect of the business to build up a CoE. This team will be responsible for planning and execution as well as handling communication and feedback between the executive sponsor(s) and the rest of the workforce.
Creating a solid business technology plan requires an assessment of your business’ current technology utilization and readiness. Starting with an assessment rather than an objective allows an organization to make unbiased observations. An objective too early can lead to friction between management due to rivaling opinions with no concrete data available. When an organization starts with the objective, they end up tailoring their assessment to make the stated objective seem necessary.
Ask yourself questions, such as:
- What technology does your organization currently use day-to-day?
- How effective is your organization’s use of this technology?
- What KPIs paint an accurate picture of readiness and utilization?
Once an assessment of your organization’s current technology readiness and utilization is complete, it’s time to figure out the objective of the technology plan. Now that you have an unbiased assessment of organizational technology usage, we can look at where the organization is failing and what can be improved. Here are some common areas of improvement:
- Providing new services to clients
- Increasing scalability and reliability
- Driving efficiency and better margins
All of these areas and many more can be improved through proper use of technology. Choose the objectives of your plan around the most critical areas of your business.
Now that you have an objective, you’ll need to setup a roadmap to ensure you can track progress with tangible results. A roadmap will help with executive buy-in by showing the who, what, when, where, and why of the technology plan. Executives will have a high-level view of how this will benefit the organization.
Splitting the roadmap into milestones allows management to delegate effectively and provides teams with goals that will boost morale after achievement. When defining milestones, make sure there are actionable items that teams can follow. Ideally, milestones should be tracked with data (e.g. a percentage of employees trained on new software, percentage of features developed, or customers acquired using a new sales pipeline).
Planning will require all-hands-on-deck. Every member of your organization should be involved with planning in some way and your CoE should be leading this effort. It’s important that team members, involved in day-to-day operations, relay their needs and thoughts to management on how improvements can be implemented. Without their input, management may implement new processes and technology that hurts performance at worse and only marginally improves performance at best.
Proper planning will involve resource allocation, creating a timeline, budgeting, and most importantly validation. It’s important to validate your plan before implementation. Poor assumptions, practices, and ideas can lead to failure during execution. If you create a budget without researching a project’s true cost and the resources required, the project will very likely run over budget.
Keep in mind that the plan will be constantly evolving as you progress. Not everything works out the way it was planned and taking an Agile approach is important. Your roadmap is the overall direction of the project and the details get ironed out along the way.
Executing any plan rarely goes right. There will be many changes made and many obstacles to overcome but a well-made technology plan will help mitigate this. As you implement new processes and technology, make sure you have a system for feedback so that you can catch any issues before it becomes engrained into your business.
Product owners and team leaders need easy, efficient, and reliable ways to communicate project status and issues to management. During execution, communication is paramount and the more effective your teams are at communicating needs and progress, the smoother implementation of new technology into the organization will be.
8. Feedback Loop
Though you should reassess throughout the planning and execution process, it is critical to complete a full assessment afterwards using the same measures as the initial assessment. This will give you concrete data on the effectiveness of the technology plan and can be used for further improvement of organizational technology utilization and readiness.
This is why it is important to do your assessment before creating an objective. If your initial assessment is biased towards making it seem like your objective is more important than it really is to the success of the organization, then the reassessment won’t accurately reflect improvements or inefficiencies as well.
“If you have a business process in place and are not reviewing it periodically and critically, you are missing opportunities or wasting effort… every critical process should have some kind of feedback loop designed into it from the beginning.”– Bill Huang, CTO | CIO
Writing the business technology plan
Now to write your business technology plan. To make it easier for you, we’ve provided a basic outline for technology plans below. While there are no rules for exactly how to write the plan, this guide will help you get started.
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