Despite the tough economic times, many businesses know that smart investment in technology will give them the edge. The problem is you’re not the only one in the company requiring funds. Your CEO or MD has several urgent demands being made internally for other projects. And as an IT manager you tend to stand out most when things go wrong.
The fact is a robust ICT infrastructure underpins the success of all departments in a company and has a proactive role to play in business growth. You just need to convince your MD of that. Follow these seven steps to make a compelling business case and get the cash injection you need.
1. Make sure that you align your ICT aims with the business priorities
See the world through the decision-maker’s eyes. It maybe a pet project to you but does it fit in with the CEO/MDs vision? What are the main business objectives? ICT can help to:
Improve customer service and communicate with customers and suppliers more effectively
Cut costs and streamline business operations
Increase staff productivity
Respond more quickly to change
Improve the way staff manage, share and use knowledge in the business
Implement home or flexible working
2. Work out how your ICT systems support and add value to the business
This is where you need to look at the functional structure of the business and how ICT supports its main activities, e.g. the work of finance, sales and customer service departments. What are the goals for each of these areas? For example has the company promised to dispatch an order in 48 hours? How do you ensure that there are adequate stock levels?
3. Consider immediate challenges and long-term goals
To get a clear picture of the threats and opportunities to the business you need to weigh up current challenges with the long-term demands on your ICT infrastructure. What are the pressures on the business now and how is that likely to change? Business demands include:
Reacting to new legislation - e.g. the protection and storage of customer data or the need to become more energy efficient.
Customer driven change. Do customers want to interact with you more online?
Supplier driven change. Are your suppliers changing the way they work?
Do you have an increasingly mobile workforce? Are they being as efficient as they could be when out of the office?
Could your teams work together more effectively and productively?
Could you improve customer service? For example connect a customer to the right person first time?
4. Evaluate trends in the marketplace
What are your competitors doing? How are they using technology to improve their business be it websites or the use of mobile technology for customer service or marketing. The growth of the internet and other networking opportunities means that business can move quickly to exploit new opportunities or adopt new ways of working. Are you leading the way or trailing behind?
5. How will you minimise disruption to business when implementing new ICT?
Disruption to your systems can have disastrous consequences across the board. Will you need external support? If so, for how long? Will you need to recruit in-house expertise? Don’t forget to factor in any staff training needed to use the new systems effectively.
6. Your ICT capability – where are you now and where do you need to be?
Produce an inventory of your current hardware and software. What is its life expectancy? Review this against your future requirements. Define the gap between what you have and the systems you need. Create a programme of implementation to close that gap producing cost estimates so that you know how much you will need to spend and when.
7. How will you measure the success of your new IT investment?
Business initiatives are implemented to achieve tangible results. The benefits of IT activity can be difficult to measure directly but it can be done. Otherwise your MD will just be focusing on upfront costs rather than long-term gains. You could assess:
The key to ensuring you get the funds you need is to demonstrate to your MD that if they don’t invest in ICT now their old system is going cost them more in the long run. On the positive side research by Gartner reveals that although investment in general will be low in 2012, two thirds of CEOs plan to increase IT investment this year. Make sure your business is one of them.
Summary: 7 tips for securing IT investment
Align your ICT aims with the business priorities
Work out how ICT adds value and know your numbers
Consider immediate challenges and long-term goals
Evaluate marketplace trends
Plan to minimise disruption in implementation stage