As businesses come to rely more on technology, there is an urgent need to plan for it. However, technology planning is hardly ever on the “to do” list of a small business; this is because many entrepreneurs are not aware of the importance of a technology plan or consider the process tedious and time-consuming. However, this does not have to be the case, and in this article we share vital information to help you develop and implement an effective technology plan for your small business.
Technology planning is not just about deciding on the right time to change out computers and update software. It involves the strategic process of determining how your business can utilize technology to enhance its objectives and productivity.
1- Assessing the Technology Resources of Your Business
Before you start the planning process, it is important to evaluate your existing technology resources. You will need to complete an assessment that covers all aspects of innovation in your business. This will include not just listing your physical equipment and software, but will also involve identifying what works and whether the resources in your business meet the current standards for your industry and efficiency.
Management is paramount in technology planning for a small business. Strong leadership will motivate the use of technology to further the business mission, contribute to staff’s willingness to use new equipment and software, help with credibility with investors, and minimize any reluctance on the part of technophobes. Ideally, the owner of the business provides strong leadership, but it can likewise come from supervisors and other managers.
3- Planning Team
Whenever possible, technology planning ought to be a team activity. The team should:
- evaluate existing technology
- recognize innovation requirements and concerns
- prepare a technology vision statement
- develop a budget and timeline
- write the technology plan
- keep track of the project’s implementation
- Guarantee stakeholder buy-in.
Ideally, the team should consist of the owner or the chief executive officer (CEO), a project manager, administrative assistant, accountant, and system administrator or tech specialist. Not every small business will have enough human resources for such an elaborate team. Nevertheless, it is important to have some representation from the major operational departments of the company to make up the planning group.
4- Identify and Prioritize Technology Requirements
After you have examined the existing state of your technology resources, the next step for your planning team in the preparation process is to recognize your company’s future innovation needs and to prioritize them. Every organization will have its requirements but should include:
- Purchasing new software and updates
- Software customization
- Personnel training
- Replacing and upgrading equipment
- Computer networking
- Developing an Internet presence
- Improving online marketing
- Designing or revamping the business website
- Developing policies for the use of computers and other technology devices
- Implementing backup systems and security procedures
- Replacing outdated hardware
- Employing appropriate technology personnel
Quite naturally as you brainstorm your technology needs, you will generate a list longer than the reach of your budget. Accordingly, the next task in your technology planning is to prioritize. As a small business owner you will need to be realistic about what you can achieve and set reasonable timelines.
5- Vision Statement
Following prioritizing, it is time to prepare a vision statement for your technology plan. Start by evaluating your company’s mission statement. Key considerations in this process should include how technology will help your business meet its mission and enhance organizational effectiveness.
The next step is establishing a budget. This can be a challenge for a small business but is critical in creating a technology plan. Thorough research is essential to ascertain the real cost for the implementation of the technology priorities of the business. It is common for a business owner to leave out expenses such as the loss of working hours for staff training, monthly updates to software, and other operational costs that are in additional to the acquisition price.
Another important step in your technology plan is to establish a timeline for implementation. Preferably you’ll be working on a strategy that can be carried out over a period and the team should consider the following:
- What are the very first things you will need to do?
- How long do you approximate it will take to finish each?
- Once the business completes the plans, what are the next steps?
Timelines ought to be versatile to accommodate unanticipated events, but rigid enough to maintain momentum. You will want to present your timeline in phases allowing time for identifying financing for each activity.
8- Writing the Plan
You have evaluated your existing resources, determined and prioritized your requirements, prepared your technology vision, developed a budget and produced a timeline for execution. The next step in technology planning is writing the plan. Most of the preparation work and brainstorming by the team will make this step much easier.
The written plan must consist of a minimum of these four key elements:
- A technology vision statement
- A description of the strategy
- A timeline
- A budget plan
More detailed plans may consist of:
- An organizational profile
- A mission statement
- Inventory of existing innovation
- A breakdown of details associated with the implementation
- An analysis of long and short-term objectives
Many small business owners will do the necessary preparation work, host many meetings to discuss a technology plan, but never actually prepare a document. Having a written technology plan will provide a reference point for the business owner and the staff in general.
9- Financing for Technology
With luck, the efforts included in the preparation of the technology plan will also help with funding. That’s why it’s so essential for your vision statement to describe how technology will help your organization satisfy its objective.
While there are entities that offer grants for technology to small businesses, they are often overwhelmed with requests. Therefore, it is important to approach funders and donors who are already supporting your mission and to use your plan to demonstrate your goals.
There is no doubt that technology is essential to any small business and growth is hinged on how the company can acquire and utilize technology effectively. The above information is a great start in moving towards the development of a technology plan in your business if you do not already have one.
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