Technology evolves at breakneck speed, and it plays an increasingly important role in the success of all types of businesses, regardless of size.
Any new business should include a technology blueprint as an integral part of its start-up plan; every existing business should adopt such a plan if it doesn’t already have one; and all businesses should revisit their technology plans on a regular basis. This guide looks at the components to include in a technology plan, best practices for designing and implementing it, and the advantages and benefits it can provide.
Creating a Technology Plan
The best time to develop a comprehensive technology plan is during the start-up phase of a new business, but it’s never too late for any company to assay its technology needs and begin formulating a comprehensive strategy to address them now and well into the future.
The plan must cover essential building blocks, such as the need to keep pace with rapidly expanding bandwidth requirements, but it must also include a clear vision. “The vision is the foundation you build upon,” says Desiree Navadeh, vice president of client services at Speak2Leads (S2L), a developer of lead response management tools for small and midsize businesses. The plan’s vision statement should spell out what purpose technology will serve for the business and its customers. The plan needs enough structure to move the business forward from its current phase to the next and enough flexibility to adapt to market demands.
Specifics will vary based on several factors, such as business type and industry, but every good plan should include technology and services that are:
- Designed for change.
An advantage SMBs have over their larger competitors in the marketplace is the ability to change and react quickly to new needs and requirements. “You don’t want to lose this advantage by being stuck with proprietary or outdated technology that inhibits change,” says Doug Kobayashi, S2L’s vice president of technology. Look for technology solutions with flexible APIs (application programming interfaces), infinite customization, open source support, and a wide user base for product support and exchanging ideas.
- Designed for growth
Technology designed for growth should complement, shape, and enhance your business. For example, SL2 leverages the growth of its cloud partner, which enables it to add international features to its application with little development effort. Scalable bandwidth is a critical consideration here. “The bandwidth you have right now may be fine for your current needs, but with global Internet traffic projected to triple by 2016, it’s a good bet your connection could become overwhelmed in the near future,” says Terry Connell, senior vice president, sales and sales operations at Comcast Business.
- Designed for integration
That means looking for technology with lots of plug-ins. “As an SMB, you don’t want to spend time and money reinventing the wheel,” Kobayashi emphasizes. “The idea is to be able to plug and play into your required technology by leveraging the work others have already done.” Sticking with best-of-breed technology provides the greatest integration options; you just need to find and test the best plug-ins.