Partners could define your business in 2021

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Businesses and organisations continue to embrace the importance of technology to support operations and deliver efficiencies. We are increasingly being asked “Can you help us with our digital strategy?”

Clearly, the overarching business strategy of any organisation is the main driver for success. However, the digital workstream has become a core element of the overarching strategy that no business can ignore (even if they would like to).

To establish an effective digital strategy, you need to ensure you have an informed IT resource that also understands the needs of your business sitting at the board table (whether it’s in house resource or an outsourced IT partner).

There is so much to consider. One of the positive outcomes from Covid – lockdowns and distributed workforces – is that research has been able to take place and minds have been opened to the potential of the implementation of quite advanced digital solutions across a broad range of businesses.

As previously reported, there is definitely a growing awareness of the importance and risks associated with information security and data ownership; but there is also a trend for an increase in interest in more advanced technologies such as data analysis, business intelligence and interpretation, Business Process Automation (BPA) and robotic systemisation.

As technology changes, it can be difficult as business owners, directors, managers and decision-makers to keep up. Making decisions on implementing industry leading technology solutions, whilst maintaining existing mission critical systems that are built on more traditional platforms can be a difficult task. It is a delicate balance that could make a huge difference to the productivity and effectiveness of your business.

Having a partner, trusted supplier, dedicated employee or team, or IT coach is important and an aspect that some businesses continue to overlook. We have seen businesses delegate IT to the youngest member of staff as they are “up with the play in all that technical stuff”; or have a staff member’s second cousin’s nephew look after it (seriously).

Or a one person support company is engaged to look after a company with 80 users. It does depend on each company’s risk profile and the capacity of the provider, but are you looking for a provider of services or a partner in your business success?

Here are some key things to consider when assessing a potential technology partner or setting up and managing an internal IT team.

Agreement types

It sounds simple, but is it clear what services are covered as part of the agreement?

How long is the agreement term? What happens to data when the agreement finishes?

What happens if there is a breach or dispute?

Who actually owns the data and where is it? Can you get it back?

Are there measures to manage performance (KPI’s)?

Can you exit the agreement easily if performance is not satisfactory or the relationship is not working out?

What warranty agreements are in place? Who pays for what?

Back end support

Does your IT team (in house or outsourced) understand your support requirements, and can it meet the needs of your business?
Is it clear what support services are actually being provided?

What other support do they offer, what is the privacy / security testing process, what reporting are you getting?

Knowledge and assistance of standards and ongoing training

Does your IT team have the required knowledge of your business systems and processes to apply effective technology solutions?

Is your IT team being proactive about what comes to the market and keep you informed regarding relevant technology solutions?

Are they acting on your behalf with developers or third party vendors?

Are they part of your Strategic or operational team or both?

How is your IT team supporting you in ongoing training, keeping to best practice standards and ensuring your data is protected?

Do they know the best of breed or know the best people to talk to if there is an issue?

Are they straight up and saying “they don’t know”, if they don’t know?

Business information (data), intellectual property, and effective processes are critical for any business to continue and is where the true value of the business lives. Who you have looking over it is a key decision to make.

To have the trust to invite your IT partner (either inhouse or contracted) to the board table, to have open discussions around IT strategy and operations that fits with the business strategy could be the difference between success or not.

If you don’t feel comfortable with this, then some underlying issues may be present and need to be addressed. With the new financial year coming up and running through budgets – what is the best solution for your business in the IT environment?

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Tony Snow
Tony Snow
Tony Snow is chief executive and co-founder of Stratus Blue. He can be contacted at tony@stratusblue.co.nz.

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