When you decide to launch a startup, you have to make a lot of important decisions. One of the biggest is how you will establish your IT strategy. A weak IT strategy can be a huge financial drain, and usinging resources ineffectively can be disastrous to businesses that are just starting out. Whether you enlist IT experts to help you or you plan to tackle IT strategy on your own, you should have a solid understanding of what makes an IT strategy strong before you get started.
In this article, we’ll break down everything you need to know about designing an IT strategy that will work for your startup, including:
- What questions your IT strategy needs to address
- Why establishing an IT strategy is an iterative process
- Popular approaches to laying out IT strategies
Some Questions Must Be Answered
There are some questions you can avoid and others that simply must be addressed. In order to build an IT strategy that will help your startup rather than hinder it, you should keep these questions in mind throughout the planning process:
- What are my startup’s business goals, and how can technology be used to reach them?
- What will my startup’s IT needs be in the future? Should I build those features into my strategy now?
- What will my startup’s internal IT department look like? What will this department’s responsibilities be?
- How can technology help my startup deliver consistent value to customers and business partners?
- Are the technologies I plan to invest in a good fit for this startup?
- How do I determine a technology’s value to this company?
- What is my startup’s IT budget? How should it be divided over services, technologies, and labor?
- How can I ensure that my IT strategy is flexible enough to grow with my company?
- What is the best way to manage, maintain, and secure my startup’s sensitive data?
- Should my startup’s IT strategy include a customer support strategy, and if so what kind?
If the IT strategy you develop aligns with the answers to these questions, your startup should be in pretty good shape.
Developing Your IT Strategy
1.Outline Business Goals and Objectives
Never forget that IT exists to provide support for your growing business. Before you can jump into developing your IT strategy, you need to know what objectives it needs to support. If you haven’t yet developed your startup’s overarching business strategy, you may want to consider:
- Sales pipelines and targets
- Plans for upcoming partnerships
- Growth strategies
- Other “action plans” that might be in the works
2.Define the 3 S’s: Scope, Stakeholders, Schedule
Defining your business’s goals is an essential first step, but knowing your business goals isn’t an IT strategy. Figuring out the scope, stakeholders, and schedule for your IT plan will really help your strategy take shape. Your IT strategy can’t address all of your startup’s tech needs at once, so it’s important to keep key team members in the loop about when and why different technologies will be integrated into your business.
3.Create a Resource Allocation and Architecture Plan
This step makes up the bulk of the IT strategy planning process. At this point, you should lay out an overall technology architecture. Consider:
- The major software, hardware, and tools needed to support your startup as a whole
- Department-specific technologies that may make business goals easier to achieve
Next, prioritize these technologies based on how essential they are to your business’s goals. This should help you determine what IT solutions should receive the bulk of your budget and how quickly you should plan to incorporate any solutions that can not be implemented right away. Keeping this information in a spreadsheet can be extremely helpful to organizing your IT strategy.
4.Define Your Metrics
You need a way to keep track of how successful your IT strategy is. How will you know if it is working for your startup? A few key metrics you may want to use to track your IT strategy’s success are:
- Service-level indicators, like number of service desk calls
- Operational indicators, like capacity utilization
- Business-level indicators, like customer satisfaction
- Qualitative indicators, like customer feedback
Iterative IT Strategy Design
It’s important to note that, no matter how much time you put into developing your IT strategy on paper, it’s not going to be perfect. In order to truly align IT capabilities with your business strategy, you may have to make tweaks and changes to your plan at various points in the implementation process.
To give you an idea, iterating through your startup’s IT strategy design might look something like this:
- Your IT strategy is drafted and approved by the planning team or individual in charge of the project, depending on the size of your startup.
- On an annual basis (aligning with your startup’s budget cycle), your IT strategy is revisited. You may want to consider questions like:
- Have any emerging technologies surfaced that may enhance my business? Would it be worthwhile to incorporate them?
- Since the last revision of my startup’s IT strategy, have we discovered that any technologies or strategies are particularly effective or ineffective? Should we make any adjustments based on that information?
- Have my IT solutions met the needs of my business?
- Has my IT budget changed at all?
- Make changes to your IT strategy based on your assessment of the current strategy as well as an evaluation of your business’s needs and goals.
Establishing an IT strategy is a big project that every startup has to tackle. Keep these questions in mind, and the whole process will be much simpler and more successful. Good luck, and happy planning!