3 Tips for Aligning Technology Strategy with the Business Strategy

A funny thing often happens when CIOs and CEOs share their strategic plans for the upcoming year. Despite commanding C-level positions that underpin the vision and performance of the company, these two roles often don’t confer on their strategies as they are developing them. To marry IT strategy with business strategy, organisations require complete buy-in from everyone within the business, from the top down, to provide a clear understanding of how technology can solve key business pain points and further organisational goals. Below are a few tips for aligning IT and business strategy so C-levels can come to a common agreement on how to steer the organisation in the next 12 months and beyond.

1. Make lights-on go away

Naturally, these daily tasks are necessary to keep the business running but they shouldn’t be the focus of IT. However, all too often they are. A recent survey of CIOs in 24 countries including the Asia-Pacific region reported on TheCioLeader.com found more than half of CIOs spend 70 per cent or more of their time on daily technology management. Eighty per cent reportedly devote half their time or more to non-strategic tasks.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Better alignment of technology strategy with the business begins with prioritising revenue-generating projects, tracking the right performance metrics and talking to business units and customers to find out what they need. IT can also consider outsourcing non-critical functions that could free up internal staff time and reduce expenditures, in addition to engaging with third-party project management experts who can ensure you meet deadlines for top-priorities endeavours.

2. Show them the money

Top management cares most about either saving money or making money. If technology plans don’t demonstrate how the business can accomplish one or both of these goals, they will fall on deaf ears. Automating and speeding up business processes and reducing downtime are ways IT can demonstrate financial ROI. Anything that will boost productivity and business performance is worth considering. Think about drafting a business case template for IT initiatives that includes a business analysis of each technology investment, defining how it supports organisational goals, life-cycle costs, benefits, risks and expected ROI.

3. Balance commitment and flexibility

This tenet is presented in a 2011 article by global management consulting firm McKinsey & Company called “Have you tested your strategy lately?” It applies to overall business strategy but also points to a place where IT needs to play. Technology in particular often necessitates an open, out-of-the-box approach to be applied successfully. And since technology can be a rapidly changing force, it’s important to leave wiggle room for trying out new trends and piloting new technologies as they emerge. IT departments that can show dedication to the overall business vision while getting things done will increasingly be given more leeway to pursue alternative technology approaches.

How has your business aligned technology and business strategy?

Why Your Cloud Architecture Design Should be a Top Concern

Figures from the global job web site Indeed.com show that the number of job postings for cloud architecture design rose 15 per cent between January 2009 and January 2013. Cloud architects are what they sound like: IT professionals who can help businesses plan, design and deploy cloud services. The rise in these roles is directly related to the growing awareness that cloud architecture design is not a matter that should simply be left to internal IT staff. To properly plan a cloud deployment, you need professionals knowledgeable in a range of cloud platforms and providers, in addition to applications and workloads  all ever more important as a multi-cloud approach becomes more appealing to organisations. Here’s why it’s important to take cloud architecture design seriously and enlist the right resources to plan it.

Application performance and availability

Depending on your organisation, you might have workloads that have low or partial utilisation levels, such as batch processing, or workloads subject to dramatic spikes in traffic, such as public-facing apps. Your workload types will affect the type of cloud platforms or services you choose. Effectively matching the right workload to the right cloud platform takes thorough understanding of each application’s needs, required computing power and traffic patterns and storage and compliance standards. Cloud architecture design assesses the requirements of all cloud-ready workloads in your organisation to discover the best options available.

The security of your environment

Every business has its own set of security needs  in fact, security concerns were once the top barrier to enterprise cloud computing. Security is built in through the cloud architecture design and development phases. When you understand or have been involved in the cloud architecture design, you will know exactly how the environment behaves and how it is secured. For instance, some cloud platforms allow customers to create user accounts to provide access to their systems and remove users who have left the company or changed roles. Workloads can be delegated amongst the right internal resources, reducing the risk that the wrong individual or business unit will gain access to sensitive information.

The steps to doing cloud architecture design well

By enlisting the expertise of cloud architects, you organisation will go through a detailed process that will ensure needs are fully understood before designing or choosing a cloud platform or multiple platforms for you. These steps include:

  • Gathering of requirements: Cloud architecture design, business, functional and non-functional requirements and creation of a cloud readiness assessment report
  • Design: Technical cloud architecture designs, implementation plans and migration preparation using identified requirements as inputs so you get a tailored cloud solution
  • Testing and proof of concept: This ensures your cloud architecture design is “proven” and will work the way it is intended to when launched
  • Implementation and build: The use of all the previous steps to construct and deploy your cloud service
  • Migration services: Formulation of the migration strategy that suits your business needs and implementation with proven methods
  • Post-migration support: Decommissioning of your old infrastructure, documentation of your cloud architecture design and handover to your IT team.

If you are looking for help planning cloud architecture design, Datacom’s Professional Services team can create, implement and manage your strategy.

Why You Need a Technology Advisor for Your Business

Enlisting the help of a technology advisor for your business can help you develop a strategy that aligns with organisational goals and poises you to drive performance and revenue. Often, this resource comes from outside the business  in fact, you might be better off if it does. Having a technology partner that views your business objectively will give you a holistic, unbiased picture of where and how technology can be improved to have the most impact. Here’s why you should consider a technology advisor for you organisation.

Many organisations spend too much on the wrong technology

Between 10 and 20 per cent of a typical organisation’s technology budget is used foolishly or wasted, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC). Often this is because organisations take a haphazard approach to deciding which technology to bring in, blindly jumping on the latest trend without fully considering if it makes sense for the business. A technology advisor will review your budget and business needs, developing a plan for how to achieve your goals with the right technology investments while balancing risks and compliance. In this way, each technology is carefully selected for a specific purpose and outcome in the business.

Technology often evolves too quickly for your IT organisation to keep up

Businesses today are savvier than ever when it comes to technology  to the point where they often bypass IT to try out cloud services and enterprise apps. But your business can’t possibly know every technology and tool at its disposal. A technology advisor carries a broad range of technology knowledge, including information on the latest trends and solutions that could optimise your business.

This resource can offer a different perspective regarding critical business decisions that involve technology and present options you didn’t even know were possible.

A third of organisations struggle with project deadlines

More research from PWC shows only 32 per cent of projects meet deadline, budget and scope. If this is the case within your organisation, you might benefit from a technology advisor’s project management services. These resources can apply their own proven delivery methodologies backed by industry-standard approaches to technology implementations. Through assessing stakeholder needs, performing a requirements analysis and instilling a governance and gate review process, technology advisors can ensure a project is organised and managed to success.

IT architecture is often forgotten

IT architecture is something many businesses don’t have time or expertise to do well internally. Having these disciplines, practices and structured processes at hand enables timely, business-focussed decision making. IT architecture is an important capability for all organisations, regardless of size or industry. A technology advisor can help ensure you are architecting solutions that are stable, secure and high-performing. This resource can assist with requirements gathering, systems selection and testing your architecture.

Bridging Australia’s Technology Skills Gap

It’s not news that Australia has struggled to build a reliable cache of IT specialists for several years. The implications of this lack of skilled domestic IT labour have been far-reaching. In 2011, only 37 per cent of IT graduates between the ages of 20 and 29 had jobs in the IT field, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. The number of 457 or foreign worker visas  a program much contended by former Prime Minister Julia Gillard last year  has increased from 70,000 to 100,000 since the global financial crisis, according to an ABC Technology + Games article from October. What has contributed to this skills gap and how can Australia  and your organisation  work around it?

Schools and tools lacking

The most highly cited reasons for Australia’s dearth of domestic IT talent include a lack of technology education in schools and poor teacher training, which has led to an inability for new grads to find work in the IT field. While much ado was made about importing foreign workers to fill these gaps in 2013, the more pressing issue is that Australia will become disadvantaged economically if this domestic skills shortage continues.

The country is attempting to make inroads with a 22-point plan urged by the Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency in its ICT Workforce Study 2013. Amongst the efforts in the plan are:

  • A semester-long IT pilot delivered online to high school students to boost their tech savvy
  • Scholarships for teachers and pre-service teachers to pursue additional ICT qualifications
  • A national apprenticeship model delivered by the government to ICT technicians and trade workers for enterprises, especially small and medium-sized businesses
  • An ICT skills conversion pilot program administered by the Australian Computer Society for recent graduates from non-ICT disciplines, plus a one-year professional experience program for entry-level ICT professionals
  • Online courses piloted by Innovation and Business Skills Australia to give mature workers retraining opportunities so they can re-enter the workforce

Augmenting your staff

Australian businesses today still have a number of options for filling IT skills gaps within their own organisations. Already noted is the 457 visa program to bring in skilled workers from other countries. A growing trend according to the ABC article involves hiring IT freelancers who can do work like application development online from home. You could also give current staff additional training to get them to a baseline skillset level.

There is also the option of augmenting your staff  either permanently or temporarily  with skilled IT staff that are sourced from an outside agency. This approach reduces the need for an often costly and time-consuming hiring process. It also reduces the cost and time to skill up current staff.

While this option is most often offered through traditional talent sourcing agencies, Datacom’s Professional Services team has its own arm that specifically works to identify skilled IT workers from either our internal network or our vast external talent pool. Workers are available for short-term or long-term contracts and will match not only your desired skillset, but your company culture as well.

Australia may have a way’s to go to fill its in-country IT skills shortage, but the strides currently being made will lay a solid foundation for the future. Until then, there are options for businesses looking to boost their capabilities so they can drive performance and competitive advantage.