If your business and technology planning are out of sync, it may be time for a technology phase shift. Fortunately technology capability is not cumulative, skipping some steps is allowed! The services-first, app-first approach to technology planning can enable much higher productivity without a huge lag in implementation or capital expenditure. First, let's review some signs that you may need to approach technology planning differently.
Markers that you are out of sync:
1. Technology spend is on "maintaining" not improving capabilities
When the technology budget consists of license renewals, hardware replacements, and helpdesk staff you are officially in maintenance mode. This can be a hard cycle to break out of especially for larger (more than 100 user) organizations. It is difficult to "change the engines" while flying!
2. Implementing new technology is painful or takes longer than expected
Each new technology project takes longer than expected and/or doesn't deliver on the promise of better capabilities. This is often a symptom of #1 above in conjunction with IT resources that are not equipped to drive technology change forward in the organization.
3. Business processes are limited by technology
When the technology is the limiting factor in your business processes, watch out! Many legacy systems form the backbone of business operations, BUT they are also the reason new more efficient processes cannot be implemented. This is often in conjunction with #2 above.
Now that we have identified we are in need of a technology phase shift, what comes next?
1. Define the business needs and workflows without constraints
This is often the most difficult step to perform, especially without outside perspective. The tendency is to base any needs on what is possible TODAY. Bringing in a partner to work through this exercise if invaluable. Include not only your business leaders, but those that are working with the systems day in and out. A qualified partner will have an established process to guide this step.
2. Produce a Technology Roadmap that has at least 25% of spend for new capabilities
It is not realistic for most businesses to throw away their existing systems and start over from scratch. That said, it's important to dedicate at least 25% of technology spend towards "non-maintenance" initiatives. Sometimes this will mean double-spend in some areas as you transition to a services/app-based world, that's okay! The ROI on implementing new capabilities will allow you to dedicate more an more budget to these activities. The phase shift in action!
3. Implement one change per quarter
Ninety days will be enough time to execute technology improvement projects. If more time is going to be required, revisit the project scope. Remember, you still have to keep the airplane flying. The "big bang" projects that attempt to replace several legacy systems at once have a high failure rate. Start with the disciple to get one new capability in place per quarter.