It Is Not An IT Problem

January 30, 2009

The technology questions currently being considered by businesses of all size are rampant.

  • Software as a service (saas); Should we? Shouldn’t We?
  • Social Media; what will it do for me?
  • Cloud Computing; what is it? does it work? Is it less expensive?

The list goes on.

As a small / medium business owner or manager, can you identify What is missing from these questions?

For most SME’s, one key, in fact a very key, fact.

They are not technology problems or questions.

They are business ones. As a SME owner or manager, they are your business questions.

Technology is only a tool. You can use it to apply your business strategy. (your strategy could use post-it type notes too)

If your strategy is to increase sales by 10% this year, what tactical requirements and costs will help you get there?

If one of those tactical requirements is better managing the customer relationship, and you have chosen a technical solution, what are the costs of doing it yourself vs. utilizing a 3rd party provider?

If your strategy is to consolidate disparate  information from manufacturing and sales, your decision may be different.

Your IT staff or provider has to sit at the table, has to present you recommendations, advice and costs.

You can demand that they offer you solutions, demand that they offer you alternatives.

But get rid of any notion that technology is just an IT problem.

It isn’t.

The strategic problem is yours.

Strategy

Strategy

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Photo Credit romainguy

Simplicity

January 29, 2009

In the world of IT, simplicity is often more reliable, more secure, and more usable.

John D. Halamka,  Chief Information Officer and Dean for Technology at Harvard Medical School

Complexity ?

It’s a Killer.

Complexity

Complexity

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Photo Credit Howard Gees

Evaluate Waste

January 28, 2009

Yes, the economy sucks right now. And the economic powers that be are forecasting that it will stay that way for at last the next year.

I can’t control that, so I don’t worry about it too much. I worry more about what I can control.

And one of the things that you  can control, is using this opportunity to look for waste in your IT organization.

It is relatively easy to look at evaluating new expenses as they come along.

But how about old ones?

Do two of your divisions use different products for the similar tasks? Perhaps in easier times a manager moved his division to what he thought was a better tool. Now can be the time to get rid of those duplicated assets.

Are you still maintaining an ancient environment for a particular application that only a few people are using? Tough economic times may reduce resistance to change, allowing you to finally retire that old application. Reducing support and licensing costs, and most of all reducing complexity.

Because while those duplicated or elderly tools may not be crossing your desk as new expenses, they are costing you  money in maintenance, support, and possibly licensing fees.

Waste

Waste

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Photo Credit Bert van Dijk

A question was asked on Linkedin regarding measuring the ROI of Social Media.

Can you calculate an ROI on social media?

Or can you just attempt to earn value from social media?

Can you calculate an ROI that a lawyer in Toronto can identify a colleague in New York with the requisite experience is available?

Or can you just provide the framework that can drive that value?

I don’t have the answer, but asking the question will have an impact on your planning for it.

As a SME owner or manager, our customers are critical. Can we say doubly so in a down economy?

Are you utilizing your existing technology tools to stay closer to them?

To make you easier to do business with?

What could that look like?

Rather than telephone tag, can your largest customers look up delivery status on your web site?

Can repeat orders of your products be placed with you electronically? Or are you forcing them through a lengthy exercise of faxes, sign offs and phone calls?

Have you actually asked them how you can make yourself easier to purchase from?

If you haven’t, try it!

Don’t take anything for granted.

If you are drop dead easy to to do business with, advantage is yours.

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I write a lot about ITIL on this blog. My reason for that is that I have found that ITIL (IT Infrastructure Library) provides a good framework to reduce IT costs and streamline the the processes of managing your technology infrastructure.

ITIL and other formalized frameworks can help provide a baseline on the requirements, inputs, and outputs required to perform a function or supply a deliverable.

But, can you do without ITIL?

In short, Yes.

I wanted to point out a couple of excellent articles that do a much better job at describing this capability than I can.

The first is Dr. John D. Halamka, Chief Information Officer of the CareGroup Health System and his blog post titled; The Broken Window Effect.

In IT organizations the Broken Window Effect can occur when management begins to tolerate downtime, constant workarounds, and broken processes.

In that article, Dr. Halamka does not mention using any framework such as ITIL or COBIT, but he extensively describes their formal change

Broken Windows

Broken Windows

review process, and the critical questions asked to ensure continuous improvement and learning.

The second article is titled; Do You REALLY Have Effective IT Processes? by Management Consultant and researcher, Vaughan Merlyn,  which provides excellent guidance on the Charactersitics of Real Process

Processes tell you how work should be done, where inputs come from and outputs go to, what results should look like and how they should be measured and evaluated

The SMB Takeaway

I urge you to read both of those articles.

As both of these examples clarify, if you already have mature internal controls to identify, monitor, and improve your internal processes, then utilizing your existing controls within IT can generate the same improvements as ITIL et al.

The Value of ITIL

If you do not currently have disciplined internal processes and controls, the third party frameworks (including ITIL) can provide  the road map necessary to begin that journey towards continuous improvement, and continuous learning.

Photo Credit phrenologist

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In many places on this blog, I have stated that as a small to medium business owner or manager, you must ensure that your IT staff or supplier is part of the conversation.

That you must be in regular communication on both the issues, and the successes.

This does not mean that you need to be a complete ‘techie’

This means that you need to dig into the relevant level of detail.

You don’t need to be a chartered accountant to run your business. That is why you hire or use one.

But even with your CA, you still need the relevent level of detail.

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