3 Ways to Grow your Architecture and Engineering Firm by Aligning IT with Your Growth Goals
"Business-IT alignment is a dynamic state in which a business organization is able to use information technology (IT) effectively to achieve business objectives - typically improved financial performance or marketplace competitiveness." (Wikipedia)
Every AEC business, regardless of its size, should strive to align business and IT. Information Technology has been embedded in every aspect of the business for years. Technology is a major driver of business expansion, as well as innovation. IT touches everything you do in your business today. Marketing uses electronic communications to generate leads. Sales uses CRM tools to manage potential customers. Designers and engineers use computers to work on their projects. IT is part of every department, from Human Resources to Accounting. It's even there when you get a cup of your favorite morning beverage - Bluetooth coffee maker anyone?
One of the challenges that may be holding you back in growing your business is the separation between your process and your technology. You need to create and maintain a synergy between business goals and IT functions. As you grow, this alignment is only going to become more essential.
REALIZING THE IMPORTANCE OF IT - CHANGING THE MINDSET
You may be taking your most valuable business tool – information technology – for granted. Its capabilities go way beyond the computers you bought your staff and the WiFi connection that doesn’t always work reliably. You could be so accustomed to getting what you need from technology that you don’t think about how to put it to good use for your business.
No one knows your business better than you do, but when it comes to IT functions, you’re probably not maximizing what it can do for you and your company.
Here are some of the most common mistakes we see businesses like yours making:
- Most small businesses, and architecture firms in particular, have either the owner or the most "technical" member of the staff handle duties of an "IT guy."
- 4 of 5 businesses of 20 or less people do not have an IT budget, nor do they plan for any IT spending in advance.
- 8 of 10 small AEC firms have suffered an IT systems outage of over four hours in the last year, which affected their bottom line.
- Most SMBs do not have a Disaster Recovery Plan as it pertains to recovering IT systems for critical business units.
- Most SMBs and AEC firms do not have any documentation related to their current IT environment, applications in use by various business units, or any formal IT related policies (IT acceptable use policy, IT security policy, etc…).
- 85% of all SMBs, do not have an IT roadmap or strategy for the next 3 years.
Now, ask yourself these questions:
- Does your business have a CIO/CTO/IT manager role in your organizational chart? Are the roles duties and responsibilities clearly defined? Who fulfills the role now and why?
- Does your business have an IT budget? What was your IT budget last year? What is your IT budget for this year? How did you come up with your IT budget, what did you base it on?
- Did you have an IT related outage last year? What was the cause? How much did it cost you in lost work hours and potential lost revenue?
- What will you do in case of a localized disaster such as a building fire or a prolonged power outage? How will you ensure your business continues to operate? What will you do in case of major area disaster (earthquake, tsunami)? How will you continue serving your clients, who may be in other areas?
- Are you prepared for an IT audit to secure a large government or corporate project? Do you have the IT documentation, policies and procedures in place to even qualify?
- What will your IT landscape look like in three years? Five years? Will you have any on-premise infrastructure? Will you be using cloud applications for everything?
If the answers are "no" or "I don’t know," then you may be risking the success and growth of your business.
Don't worry. There’s help. A quick-start review and strategy session can get your IT plan up and running. These things can be done easily, and will provide the most return on the time and money you invest.
This is like getting a second opinion from a doctor, and putting a second set of professional eyes on anything you do related to information technology. A good strategic assessment provides your business with a real-time review and snapshot of IT related systems and activity. It gives you an assessment of the current state of IT as it relates to your business goals. You’ll get a strategic road-map for the next 3-5 years that aligns IT with your business goals. The end result is a tactical plan to achieve the strategic objectives identified in the assessment.
Now that you have a tactical plan and a strategy, it's time to do some financial planning to make it all work. You can download our Guide for IT budgeting and our internal IT Budget Spreadsheet to help you get started. Then, contact your IT partner or service provider for help in creating a budget.
You probably have a business relationship with a law firm or an accounting firm; why not have a similar relationship with a trusted partner in the technology industry? A good IT partner provides value, benefits, and resources. You’ll get the peace of mind that your IT environment is stable, reliable, and secure. You’ll get help understanding new tools, technologies, and trends, and you’ll receive a quick response and resolution of real-time IT related issues and failures. You can also expect advice in assessing the risks and potential business impact of various security threats and vulnerabilities, and you’ll have access to experts who can explain new technological terms and buzzwords, that for some reason just don't make sense.
Take these first important steps, and you’ll see your business grow more effectively.
For more information about how this works and how we can help you, please contact us.
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