All successful entrepreneurs would agree that a well prepared business plan is key to success. A good plan clearly outlines the firm’s mission, vision, key objectives, and key steps to success. However few business plans actually contain an information technology plan. True, most Hi-tech startups include an in-depth discussion on the technology that they will develop for the and market, as well as the design and implementation of the requisite infrastructure(s) needed to supporting this technology, however, this is not the same as an information technology plan. A good information technology plan is used to map out the details of how information will flow from internal and external sources, and between departments.
Why is an information technology plan so important?
Companies competing in today’s modern environment, must differentiate themselves more and more by leveraging technology to streamline their business processes, engage digital marketing and sales automation, communicate with a geographically dispersed workforce, and efficiently connect with customers. No doubt, having an information technology plan for your start-up company, which closely aligns with your business goals and objectives is necessary. There is no better place to layout the blueprints for this than in the business plan developed by your company’s founders.
Too often, CEOs view IT merely as a computer based process to hand off to the tech guys. They may limit their concern only to the systems that affect them directly (i.e. the company financial system, the company website, their own PC).
However, a forward thinking CEO views IT as a vehicle to enhance the operation, fuel the growth of their business and increase their bottom line. They engage technology to support achievement of the firm’s mission, vision and business objectives.
As the CEO of a startup, likely you are painfully aware that as your company grows and more data is stored in various systems, the more it becomes difficult, time consuming and costly to change to a new system. Adding an IT blueprint to your business plan allows you to budget for and plan the implementation of the most appropriate systems for the different areas of the company, as well as the interoperability of these different systems. It will also serve as a guide for identifying the ideal IT staff and the CIO capable of executing the approved IT strategies. In turn, the plan will serve as a clear direction and/or marching orders.
What essential things should you consider as you create your IT Plan?
What Information Technology Systems will each of your department(s) need right now to meet their objectives? What high level features do you foresee them needing ultimately to accomplish the business objective of the company?
- Will the company use a business intelligence system and KPIs to monitor day to day or real-time progress of the company?
- What Accounting software will they use? Will that system also handle payroll? How fast will it be outgrown based on the business plan objectives?
- Will you need a customer relationship management (CRM) system? What features are needed?
- What software will be used for sales presentations and proposals?
- What system will be used to facilitate the workflows associated with the recruiting and hiring process?
- Will an ERP system be used? What systems will be used for order fulfillment, inventory tracking, manufacturing processes?
- How will all of these systems integrate?
- What will be the company’s storage needs?
After determining the type of information systems that will be needed, the next step is to look at the functional structure of the IT Department. Consider the following basic questions:
IT Department Structure:
- Which Executive will oversee the IT department?
- Will you hire a CIO and if so, at what point?
- Which Executive will oversee the IT department?
- Will the appropriate controls be implemented to avoid Shadow IT? (See blog post: Why Your Company Should Be Afraid of Shadow IT, And 5 Ways To Combat It! )
- What are you budgeting for IT staff? Is it market rate; enough to hire the appropriate skill set to match the proposed systems?
- Are there regulatory compliance standards such as HIPPA or PCI-DSS that the company needs to be concerned with?
- Is a public offering planned for, necessitating SOX planning?
- Will my financial and data systems be compliant?
- What additional high level regulatory standards need to be followed?
Company IT Policies:
- What company-wide information technology policies need to be written?
- What is the company policy for email retention?
- Will users be allowed to bring their own mobile devices?
- What information security methods will be used? (See blog post: Small Businesses are prime targets for hackers, 7 steps you need to know to better secure your data!)
- Will an Information Rights Management (IRM) and Data Loss Prevention (DLP) system be used?
By no means are the topics and associated questions outlined above a comprehensive list of what should be considered. Rather, these are rough ideas to guide an entrepreneurs to think beyond the surface and take a closer look at how information technology systems can affect the business.
As a Start-up company founder, you do not need to be a technology expert to formulate a high-level plan for the use of IT. However finding a technology partner who is experienced with working with start-up organizations and planning information technology systems can help.
About CloudFirst: CloudFirst Technology Solutions specializes in assisting startups with the planning, implementation and management of IT solutions. We have an expert staff can help you create your comprehensive IT plan and incorporate it into a new or existing business plan. The CloudFirst team can guide you in the path of acquiring and implementing new technologies, and provide managed services as you build out your IT department. We can recommend and design solutions that can be implemented for two employees and create a blueprint that scale to over 10,000 employees.
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