In the IT profession, its normal to call in an expert to consult from time to time for various companies. Oftentimes, these companies are leaders in their prospective industries, and while information technology might not be their industry, they inherently know it’s important to do well. It’s important to find the right professionals to recommend infrastructure, tools, etc. but all too often the “cutting edge of technology” is prioritized over efficiency. The result? Wasted money, wasted time, and burned expenses. This real-life example illustrates how you’re likely investing wrong in your IT, and three ways to fix it.
Looking to increase their IT efforts, an outside professional was called in to consult with a trucking company. It was the first time this professional had ever worked with the trucking and logistics industry, so they had no idea what to expect. The owner, John, came out to greet the consultant when they arrived. He shared about his company, stressing that he valued the use of technology. He walked into his back office, explaining that he didn’t hold back any expense when it came to keeping his business on the cutting edge of technology. The consultant thought “Why is this guy going so over the top trying to impress me?” Curious to see just how much he was exaggerating, the consultant asked John to see his equipment, assuming his equipment was going to be a mess of dusty cabling.
John guided them to a huge metal door on the west side of the building secured with a numeric lock. The consultant admitted to being impressed by that. They’d expected to find his network equipment sitting on a forgotten shelf in some back corner. John punched in his code, pushed open the door, and stepped out of the way like he was a magician doing the big reveal.
To the consultant’s surprise, the door revealed a room full of expensive, high-end equipment. Amazed, the consultant walked through the room and saw everything John had. After about five minutes however, the consultant’s initial shock started to wear off, and they began asking John some questions. Shock quickly turned into concern and frustration.
John had invested nearly $250K in equipment that he did not need. He had wired his entire office with a commercial-grade battery backup solution designed to power his entire facility for days should the power go out. It was a great solution. He even had everything color coded and properly labeled. The problem was, John had been there for five years and the power had only gone out twice. Both outages only lasted for a short period of time. Not only that, but John’s business was able to function without power because they could easily transition to paper ledgers that could be entered into the system once the power was restored. In the back-left corner of the room, he had a temperature-controlled cabinet. These cabinets are designed to keep your servers and networking equipment at a constant temperature to avoid overheating. It was bolted to the floor and had a lock on the front to prevent theft. Unfortunately, he only had two pieces of equipment loaded in it and the room itself was already well ventilated. As for security, the room was secured by that big metal door with a numeric key lock.
When the consultant asked John why he had invested in all of this phenomenal equipment, he simply said, “Because my IT guy told me I needed it.”
While making an unnecessary $250K investment is definitely an extreme example, this story highlights four important issues:
- The IT guy was asked to do something he wasn’t qualified to do. There was no doubt John’s IT guy was passionate about new technology and understood how to make it all work. The solution he’d put in place was awesome. I was literally in shock when I first saw it. Every piece of this top-of-the-line equipment was properly configured and clearly labeled. It was a really nice setup. But the guy wasn’t able to discern between new solutions that would be “nice to have” and those that were necessary to help John’s business grow.
- John didn’t know what questions he needed to ask. He understood that he didn’t know enough about technology to manage it himself, so he’d wisely hired an IT guy. However, he should have been asking how each of the IT guy’s recommendations was going to help him grow his business. Since his IT guy clearly liked to stay current on the latest trends, he should have asked him what new technology would make them more efficient.
- John needed the guidance of a Chief Information Officer (CIO). He was missing someone to help him determine what technology solutions were going to best support his business: someone who understood his business, where he wanted to take it, and what options were the best solution to fit his needs. A CIO would have told John that while the IT guy recommended some great solutions, they were not going to help him reach his goal of opening three more locations over the next five years. That $250K would have been better spent moving his infrastructure into an environment that gave him better mobility and flexibility. Then, when the opportunity for expansion presented itself, he would not be restricted by the confines of his current network deployment.
4. John didn’t have a strategic plan for how his business was going to use technology. Every business leader needs a plan for when and how they will research and deploy new technology solutions within their business. If you’re going to upgrade your computers, it should be in the plan. If you’re thinking about implementing a new software solution, it should be in the plan. If you’re thinking about purchasing a new piece of equipment that will increase productivity, it should be in the plan. This plan is the resource that guides your technology expenses. It’s what I call the “Technology Roadmap.”
This allows you to accurately budget for any large expenditures and plan projects around your slower times of the year. Your Technology Roadmap should govern all of your technology projects and should be reviewed on a quarterly basis. This way, you won’t find yourself making unnecessary technology purchases throughout the year, you’re less likely to have a new technology rollout impact operations during peak season, and you’ll stick to your annual technology budget.
Three Ways to Correctly Invest in IT
If you’re thinking that you’re just as bad off as John was, don’t lose hope. It took some time, but John was able to get squared away. He now has complete control over his technology budget and has a plan for addressing technology projects in the future. But getting to that point required John to make some changes. He had to completely change the way he approached the use of technology in his business. You might need to make changes too. For you, this might mean making a major shift in the way your business functions. It might require you to adopt a different mindset. Whatever that change may be, there are three concepts you’ll need to wrap your head around if you hope to make this needed transition.
- Adjust your perspective on technology. IT can no longer be viewed as an expense or cost center for your business. You have to view it as a strategic tool that will propel your business forward and possibly create new product offerings for you.
- Remove the barriers. You need to stop thinking of each function of your business as if it’s operating independently. Instead, think of technology as being the maestro that harmoniously pulls all of the pieces together. Through the use of next-generation solutions like platform as a service and cloud, you have the ability to create end-to-end automated solutions. Your options are only limited by your imagination and your budget.
- Create a future-proof framework. While a future-proof system does not literally exist, the concept is important. The way you compete with big businesses in this digital age is by being more nimble and agile than they can be. Therefore, your technology solutions must be able to support you in those efforts.
Simple Plan IT offers consulting and fractional vCIO services to meet the needs of various-sized companies. We’re happy to consult with you on your current IT structure, address gaps, and make recommendations. Chat with one of our friendly specialists to discuss your cybersecurity needs.