How do you keep up with changes in your market? In lean times, you’ll likely pore over your budgets, evaluate your most important assets, and trim the fat here and there. And then when the big picture gets a little brighter, you’ll fatten up again. But is that preparation or is that just a response? A technology assessment is a perfect opportunity to step back, in preparation for your next big step forward.
You’ll get a chance to:
- Analyze your business operations as a whole
- Create strategies to adapt to changing markets and external environment
- Identify opportunities for work flow efficiencies and eliminate deficiencies
- Build a practical business case for adoption of new technologies
- Enroll your employees in enterprise decision-making
Why would you need a technology assessment?
Hardware wears out. Servers overload. Software becomes obsolete. Network infrastructure becomes inefficient. Maintenance and one-off repair costs grow larger and larger. A technology assessment dives deep into each of these critical components of your business systems, points the finger at the troublemakers and idlers, and triggers a rehab process.
You can’t get answers without first asking questions
The first thing your IT partner will do: ask questions. The discussion always starts – and ends – with an analysis of the business operations as a whole. Just like human resources, technology resources (systems, data, hardware, software, etc.) are strategic assets that impact every aspect of the enterprise.
How is your market changing?
How can you adapt your business flow to accommodate the changing competitive environment?
Can you speed up your product offering?
Can you gain efficiencies in your service delivery?
With the strategic overview in place, the next set of questions focuses on your current technology systems and culture, a state of the organization kind of thing. This “taking stock” of what is already in place includes visits to central operations or office headquarters, server rooms, employee workstations, etc., where you’ll be asked questions such as:
How old is your hardware and what are your maintenance processes? How much of your IT time is spent on trouble-shooting and band-aids?
How does your server work for you? How often does it “go down?” What’s most often the culprit?
What complaints to employees have about “the system” or their workstation environment? What are their pain points? Is the network too slow? Are they doing things manually that could be automated? Are they tethered to a desktop, or operating on old systems that inhibit productivity or creativity?
What software is running on these computers? Is it Commercial Off the Shelf (COTS) software? Is it custom software? And, oh dear, are you still running with legacy software (maybe ASP Classic or VB6)?
Now your IT partner knows what your goals and pain points are. They know what technology resources you have in place, and how that technology is used. They can create diagrams of your architecture and your hardware, provide an inventory of workstations and software on servers, and provide a thoroughly updated set of documentation.
Think, analyze, research, and think some more…
They’ll think about your business flow, and analyze the relationship between this business flow and existing technologies, and make recommendations on how to adapt your business flow to accommodate the changing environment.
Should hardware be upgraded, replaced or retired? What are the long-term costs (capital, maintenance) associated with a solution? Hardware gets old and outdated very quickly (2-3 years), and a long-term solution should take this into account.
How will today’s recommendations prepare you to take advantage of the efficiencies offered by emerging cloud computing technologies (which will soon become the standard) and the many opportunities that lie within your own data?
Software is the brains of any business – especially custom software. And software tools, language, and architecture are in a constant state of evolution.
- What does market research convey about the latest and greatest software that will meet your requirements?
- What software changes are recommended?
- If you’re running COTS, is your hardware infrastructure and operating environment big and bad enough to handle the frequent updates?
- If you run custom software, will it meet the needs of your current business flow, and is it flexible and/or scalable to accommodate changes to this flow?
- If you’re running on legacy software…well….start planning that retirement party. Older legacy software will very soon be unsupported. Don’t wait for that day.
What to Expect from Your Technology Assessment
The hard part is now done, and you should expect a set of documents that contains findings, research, and recommendations. This will probably be filled with techie language that very few will understand. Therefore, you should also expect a plain English presentation of this assessment, that walks you through the recommendations step by step, and that will serve as your organization’s strategic roadmap.
Bottom line – When your technology ages, you put more and more energy into short-term maintenance (developer time, small revisions, tweaks to help you get by) and less energy is available for long-term growth strategies. Step back and take advantage of your technology assets. An investment in the short term to upgrade or replace promises long term returns in the form of efficiencies, cost savings, improved business flow, and the abilities to tap into new and changing markets.