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Is Your Technology Roadmap Struggling to Meet Your Business Goals?

In 2023, the state of the market is putting new pressure on small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). Between an uncertain market trajectory, shrinking budgets, clients re-evaluating their spending, and – in some cases – an increasing set of regulatory and compliance requirements coming from external parties IT departments are tasked with making sure their technology plans align with evolving business goals. However, there’s a way to meet this pressure and thrive: Here’s how you evolve your technology roadmap in line with your emerging objectives.

Warning Signs You’re Falling Behind

SMBs need to hold on tight, at least that’s if the Federation of Small Businesses is to be believed. It found that two in five UK small firms reported a fall in sales midway through this year, with 35.5% bracing for a fall in revenue over the coming quarter [1].

Chances are, you’re being required to achieve more with a limited IT budget amidst increasingly tight security and compliance restrictions. You may be looking around you at other companies, feeling like you’re missing out, seeing competitors brag about their latest AI implementation, and wondering if you’re falling behind.

In 2023, most businesses will have the following goals as a priority:

  • Retaining and expanding streams of revenue.
  • Maintaining security and customer loyalty.
  • Proving return on investment (ROI) for technology spend.
  • Cutting unnecessary overhead.
  • Providing flexibility for a distributed workforce.

However, your technology roadmap needs to account for a wide range of IT priorities to keep the department operating effectively: much-needed hardware upgrades or replacements to legacy infrastructure, security training to prevent breaches, and all the changes required to adapt to hybrid working becoming the norm – and that’s just the start. Making sure that every investment can be tied back to the business’s wider goals can be a significant task.

Here are some signs that your technology roadmap may be falling behind:

  • Your year-on-year (YoY) cloud budget is creeping up, and you can’t justify the recurring spend.
  • You have a great product you’re using, but you can’t prove its ROI.
  • Your IT contracts are due for renewal, and you’re having a hard time working out which investments are delivering value.
  • Your budget is focused on “keeping the lights on” instead of innovation and growth.

If you’re struggling to make your technology roadmap accomplish both your IT and business goals, here’s how you can build a strategic path to combine the two.

Customising Your Technology Roadmap

First, as you make sure IT is in lockstep with the senior leadership team, try looking at it through the lens of productivity. Here, IT can start by delivering clear, measurable business impact in the form of time savings or new capabilities driven by technology.

Examine your applications and infrastructure from the perspective of end-users. Ask yourself the following questions: Can you and your co-workers easily find the information you need to do your jobs, or does your workforce find it difficult to work together seamlessly? Are you able to work well with external businesses – suppliers, agencies, venders? Can you share documents with third parties while retaining control – for example, an embargoed press release – or do you have to find a workaround?

By tracking the number of hours your colleagues are spending on individual tasks, you can iterate and test, proving the impact your changes have made as you go. Showing you’ve saved five hours per month with a reporting dashboard, or replacing a manual process with an automated workflow can give you the stakeholder buy-in you need to make your next move.

The next step is to research emerging technologies that could provide advantages in your industry and for your strategic goals – but you can’t grow a garden without eliminating the weeds.

Over years of organic growth, your software spending has likely grown, and you may have ended up over-licensed. Costing valuable work hours, over-licensing can be an overlapping of tools or having licences that have unutilised functionality. If your company is subscribed to five different project management tools, for instance, now is an ideal time to standardise your processes and maximise collaboration on shared tasks.

Many of you are already looking at your cloud platforms and questioning if you’re really getting the value you need. If migration is part of your business’ roadmap, your priority will likely be how you extract value from the new environment and use all the features well, rather than the migration itself. By standardising a core set of applications company-wide, rather than allowing a variety of niche apps to spring up, you can centralise your data management and control costs in the long term.

Before you move on, clean up what’s in your existing technology estate and retire outdated or legacy applications and infrastructure. By doing the hard work now and purifying your data sources, you’ll be in a much better position to get the precise outputs you need when adopting emerging technology like AI.

Then comes the research itself. Want to know how AI could affect your workforce’s productivity through Microsoft’s Copilot? Heard about a competitor using automation to flag important documents for follow-up using low-code tools? This is the time to do that digging. Then, with all this knowledge, focus your budget on solutions that will deliver the most value, balancing costs with expected business impact. For example, investing in an upgraded CRM to enhance customer experience and retention.

However, it’s important not to try to overhaul everything in one go. Your end-users can only absorb so much change at once. Create a phased, agile rollout plan and bear in mind how the technology roadmap will affect the team. Implement it in stages and pace it appropriately while keeping agile enough to handle shifting priorities and budgets going into 2024.

Better Business Outcomes

There are many technology improvements you can make that won’t have an impact on your productivity or security. That’s why a technology roadmap that’s tailored to your business involves educating your team and ensuring they’re comfortable using the new capabilities. You can install a new intrusion detection system, but your colleagues may still struggle if they don’t know what to do if there’s a breach.

For SMBs in risk industries, meeting tighter FCA compliance requirements and investor due diligence is critical. Whether you’re pursuing funding or working with highly confidential data, it’s essential for you to demonstrate strong controls and procedures. It’s possible to do this with a ‘rubber stamp’ approach, but organisations can go further: using heightened compliance levels as a practical baseline to drive real improvement.

If you’re looking for a clear set of baseline cybersecurity controls and best practices, covering areas like firewalls, user access controls, malware protection, and patch management, Cyber Essentials, the government-backed certification scheme, can provide that foundation. Cyber Essentials can also make it easier to renew your cyber insurance, making it easier for you to seek funding and meet the bar of investor or regulator expectations.

By taking an ecosystem approach to your technology roadmap, integrating software applications through centralised portals and automation, seamlessly connecting teams and ensuring information is accessible to those who need it, you can bring increased collaboration, and reduce manual effort. It’s vital to bring your colleagues with you, so focus on change management and training so employees fully adopt new tools that streamline processes.

See how Westwind Capital unified its technology stack with business aims by building a secure and compliant IT infrastructure to ensure it could satisfy the due diligence requirements of future investors.

Choosing the Smartest Path

Creating a strategic technology roadmap tailored to your business goals requires time and expertise. If juggling this while running day-to-day operations seems daunting, consider partnering with a managed IT services provider or trusted advisor. At Doherty Associates, our SmartPath Programme can help you create a dynamic, ever-evolving ‘technology roadmap’ custom-designed to drive your business forward.

[1] https://www.fsb.org.uk/resource-report/small-business-index-quarter-2-2023.html

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