There are times when you need to upgrade to new technology and there are times when you need to add technology to the organisation. This always presents a challenge to the IT team because technology (in most companies) isn’t the only show in town. Upgrades and new solutions generally come out of the capital pot, and you are competing with all the other parts of the organisation for budget that also goes to research and development, mergers and acquisitions, legal compliance, business expansion, and all manner of replacements and renewals.
So what makes a compelling argument for technology to grab the pot? Well it’s pretty simple really … a good return on investment and achieving one of the aforementioned business goals. I’ve talked before about positioning IT as part of the organisation, and having a seat at the table attunes your IT team to what makes the organisation tick. Many years ago, I dealt with a company that completely got this, and had products lined up ready to go even before you asked about them, because they were so close to the business. And that is where you need to be, an integral part of the business planning activity so that you can aid and enhance what your organisation does.
But it is often a blunt process as there must be a return on the investment – and it needs to be a good and real one. Typically returns on investment can be categorised in three ways.
- A nil return – obviously the hardest to get past any audit process and most likely to be something either legal or essential for continued organisational operations.
- A possible return – the theory says it should return but can be a bit of a gamble (sad to say I’ve seen these often time described as increases in sales, which don’t materialise).
- A definite return – an impact on the bottom line by a reduction in costs or increased output.
This is where you can excel, especially if you are lucky enough to be able to justify a management accountant assigned to the IT team. Because a justification in the organisation’s own financial terms prepared by the finance team holds additional credibility – it’s also advantageous if the sponsor for the activity is not from the IT team.
There is another area many IT teams forget to cover. Where does your organisation’s IT landscape sit with respect to your competitors and why is it different? This is where some of the other teams in your organisation can help; contact the sales and marketing teams, and find out why your competitors’ propositions are different? It may also pay to validate your findings through external consultancy, to ensure your conclusions and avoid the accusation that you are on the wrong track.
And lastly, use organisations like UKISUG to network and understand what is going on outside your own organisation. Find non-competitive organisations that will trade experiences and knowledge freely, to avoid any known pitfalls of the path you are planning to go, and don’t be afraid to organise senior management engagements with other organisations. You will be amazed at the synergies that can develop. Often non-software, these can enlighten your path.
If there is truly a case for change then the evidence will support it!