These days, technology is a central component of every business. We’ve seen in recent months just how important a well thought out IT strategy is. However, for many businesses, IT is an afterthought and isn’t given the proper planning it deserves. In this blog we’re going to talk about technology roadmaps: plans that help your IT strategy develop and adapt to new situations. Why do you need one, and what should a good technology roadmap have?

Why do you need a technology strategy or IT roadmap?

Why do you need a business plan? The same answers apply to your technology. Having a roadmap allows you to set goals and determine whether you are reaching them. What’s more, a good roadmap will actually help other aspects of your business to grow.  

Avoiding surprises

When business owners focus on IT after its needed, the costs can be surprisingly high. Suddenly you need to install systems or license software that you previously hadn’t accounted for. By planning ahead, you can avoid running headfirst into a brick wall.

A good IT plan also will prevent problems that could stymie production. You’ll be glad you invested in moving workloads to the cloud before that server got to end of life. With your data safe and secure, with built in redundancies and backups taken care of, you can keep on working even when other things are falling apart. Or, if need be, scale back on what you’re consuming while your business pivots during unforeseen circumstances.

Enabling growth

Your business can’t grow if its IT acts as a bottleneck. Imagine needing to hire three new people but not having the computers for them to work on. You don’t build a house before you build a road to it. IT is the backbone–the infrastructure–that will enable further growth.

You should compare your business plans with your IT plans. Do they scale neatly together? Are objectives aligned? Will your technology needs be met as your business expands?

Predicting the future

Creating a roadmap forces you to think about the future. Tech lovers are tuned in to what’s just around the corner, and every year there are impressive new technologies being released. Have you considered how emerging technology could benefit your business?

Artificial intelligence and object recognition with cameras are just two fields that are rapidly expanding and can help virtually every business. You might think of growing flowers as the least IT-dependent business out there, but there are currently growers using cameras to identify when plants are ready for sale. Technology is everywhere, and every business needs to think of itself as a technology business.

What should an IT roadmap include?

Expected number of users

Your users can be divided into two categories: internal and external. Internal users are those inside your network, like your employees. External users, in contrast, are customers who access your website or use an app that you’ve launched.

You should scale your IT up as your user count grows. Internally, you’re going to need more bandwidth to handle more data, more workloads, more computers for more users, more licenses, more Ethernet ports, and better Wi-Fi. The list goes on. Consider how you manage joiners, leavers, and movers. Is is easily manageable, and can you act quickly enough to avoid disruption of business-as-usual? Also consider how the joiners, leavers and movers process looks from the end user’s perspective.

For external users, pay attention to where your client-facing services sit. Can you handle the increased workload? If you’ve got a server running online, is it going to be fast enough? Can it deal with peaks in traffic? Nothing frustrates users more than a slow service. What is more, it speaks volumes of the kind of organisation that you are. The Royal Aeronautical Society carefully considered the alignment of the members experience with the organisation’s overall vision as part of their digital transformation. It was important for them to show digital leadership at all levels of the organisation.

Software and hardware allocation

Consider the software that your business uses. Do you expect that to change? Will you need to migrate to new software at some point in the future once you’ve outgrown what you currently use? How will the migration be managed? 

Even if you plan on using the same tools for the future, you’ll need to add licenses for more users in most cases. You may also need to upgrade your cloud storage. What are your options when it comes to your licenses – would a license upgrade unlock features that your business could make use of, potentially saving cost and effort elsewhere?

Hardware matters too! Who needs the fastest PCs in the office? Will your current network switch be good enough in six months’ time? Be sure to put your pieces in the right places and plan for changes down the road. Consider how flexible the solutions are for as and when needs change.

Training

The best equipment with the latest software means little if your staff can’t operate it correctly. Training should also be a core component of your roadmap. Before you can roll out new features or use new solutions, you need to make sure your people can use them.

Perhaps your business has a system that allows people to record their time on the job, or software that manages workflow. These tools can increase your efficiency, but you must allow for some time for workers to adapt and learn. Widely adopted enterprise grade tools are tried and tested, and can support your business as it scales.

Updates and maintenance schedule

Your IT roadmap should also include regular intervals for maintenance, updates and replacement schedules. While you can keep computers running for years with minimal maintenance, some routine upkeep will save you money in the long term, let alone keep you safe and secure. For more complex equipment, you’ll want a dedicated person for the job. In fact, even for an environment with 30+ users, it may be more cost effective to have the support of a third party.

Wherever possible, consider how automation can simplify updates, and be part of operational security measures. A good managed service provider will be able to lead with best practice measures, and will greatly simplify these schedules into routine monitoring and management, freeing you up to focus on business as usual

Replacements should be regularly scheduled, not spur-of-the-moment purchases due to a faulty device or broken piece of equipment. Even if everything is running well, upgrading can be beneficial. Newer machines are more power-efficient and tend to complete tasks faster, which may actually make your business more productive.

Changes in roadmap design

With all of these components in mind, it’s important to consider how IT roadmaps have evolved so that yours fits your business’ 21st-century needs. First, your modern roadmap should be visual. Gantt chart style charts help you to quickly view different aspects of the roadmap along a timeline. It should be a communicable plan which all departments buy into and understand. It should have a fixed budget and timeline so it is clear which milestones will be reached when, and with what impact. 

The last few months have shown us that flexibility is crucial to the resilience of your organisation. By now all businesses have seen the value of  being able to quickly collaborate and make adjustments in order to adapt to new requirements. Don’t make the mistake of becoming too rigid with your roadmap.

Need advice?

If you’ve never put together an IT strategy roadmap and aren’t sure how to go about it, contact us. Our focus is on keeping it simple and making sure you get exactly what you need, when you need it. We can evaluate your needs and prepare the perfect IT roadmap for your business.