In my years supporting and advising hundreds of businesses on their IT strategy, I’ve noticed some common practices: While most small- and medium-sized business (SMB) have strategies to grow their business with defined goals that extend 10 years and beyond, they often fail to plan for technology needs with an IT roadmap. In fact, they tend to only react to IT problems and do just enough to solve them. I think the reason is pretty simple; IT is an area outside their comfort zone.

To compensate for their lack of understanding, many SMB owners and managers rely heavily on their IT staff or outsourced IT provider. They assume that they know what they are doing and have a plan. In reality, most IT personnel and outsourced providers don’t think strategically either. Rather than looking ahead, they focus on catching up on things that have been neglected. Rarely do they turn the corner and look to the future. They too are caught in the reactive spiral.

Planning Your IT Roadmap

If you are a SMB owner or manager, I challenge you to step outside your comfort zone. Just as you value strategic planning and align your team to that strategy, so should you value IT roadmap planning. This is not a revolutionary thought, but rather, common business sense.

So, where do you start with IT roadmap planning? The following steps outline our recommended approach. As you read through them, I suggest comparing this to-do list with the plans made by your IT staff or outsourced provider to see if they align. Ultimately, your IT roadmap should view technology as a business advantage and should be budgeted for accordingly.

1. Timeframe

Generally, your IT roadmap should detail your technology for the next year. Years two and three should reflect your vision for desired outcomes.

2. Strategy

Your IT roadmap should align with your business strategy and be planned accordingly. For example, do you want to leverage cloud-based services, scale capacity up or down, or introduce new mobile functionality, etc.? All of these choices serve your business best when planned for as part of your overall business strategy.

3. Asset Planning

Your computers, mobile devices, phones, switches, firewalls, wireless access points, servers, and backup systems have defined lifecycles. You should be aware of them and plan in advance for the next upgrade, migration, consolidation, etc. If you don’t budget appropriately for these asset lifecycles, you run the risk of expensive surprises and unfortunate system struggles.

4. Cybersecurity

Your roadmap should involve some level of regular auditing, vulnerability scanning, and risk assessment. See our blog post on risk analysis and assessment for more information on this.

5. Review Cycle

As with any long-term plan, it is good to regularly review, update, and ensure your IT Roadmap remains relevant. Plans should be living things that can be course-corrected. While time cycles are different for each company, we recommend re-visiting your IT roadmap on a quarterly basis. For larger organizations, a monthly review may be needed, and for others every six months may be sufficient. At the very minimum, an annual review should be conducted.

Initially, high-level roadmap planning is recommended. Create a list of major projects (titles only) and assets to be replaced and assign ballpark budgets that can be used for later detail planning. As the time for execution draws near, ideas can be fully fleshed out.

Want to Learn More?

I hope you find this concept of planning and strategy useful. I believe that those who fail to plan, truly plan to fail. If you find these concepts interesting, send us an email or give us a call. We would be happy to answer questions specific to your organization. Click here to download your own IT Roadmap template.

By Karl Bickmore, CEO