5 Things to Remember When Developing an IT Strategy

When it comes to developing an IT strategy, small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) often face uncertainty about where to begin, especially when technology is not your primary focus.

As a SMB, it’s understandable that you may lack internal resources to manage IT-related initiatives. However, without a clear plan to act as your guide for technology deployment, any IT investment can feel like a gamble, potentially leading to inefficiencies and missed opportunities.

With expert guidance from an IT partner or managed service provider (MSP), you can begin to build your plan to streamline operations, enhance security, and drive growth. But there’s also a few considerations you can act on before you seek assistance. 

In this blog, we’ll explore five crucial aspects to remember when developing an IT strategy, helping you navigate its complexities, and set your business up for success.

1. Always align your IT strategy with your business goals

For SMBs without dedicated IT departments, aligning your IT strategy with business goals is crucial to ensuring that technology investments drive success. Begin by identifying your primary business objectives, such as enhancing customer satisfaction, improving operational efficiency, or expanding market presence. Understanding how different technologies can support these goals is essential to being able to derive value from them, and gain buy-in from your workforce.

Here are three quick tips to help you get started:

1. Conduct a SWOT analysis:

Perform a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis to understand your business’s internal strengths and weaknesses, as well as external opportunities and threats. This analysis will highlight areas where technology tools can make a significant impact and help you prioritize your objectives.

2. Gather feedback from key stakeholders:

Involve your key stakeholders, including employees, customers, and partners, to gather insights on current challenges and opportunities. Their feedback will provide valuable perspectives on what improvements are needed and how technology can address these issues. This collaborative approach also ensures that the IT strategy aligns with the needs of those who will be using the technology, and that they will be invested in leveraging these tools once made available.

3. Map out current processes:

Document your existing business processes and workflows to identify inefficiencies and bottlenecks. Create a visual map of these processes to pinpoint where technology can streamline operations, reduce costs, or enhance productivity. This exercise helps you understand the current state of your technology infrastructure, and identify important gaps that need to be addressed.

Even without in-house IT expertise, you can research and create a list of necessary tech improvements that directly contribute to your business goals. This initial assessment helps prioritize investments, but to ensure alignment with long-term objectives, consider consulting with an IT partner or managed service provider (MSP). These experts can provide strategic guidance and help you develop a cohesive IT strategy that supports your overall business plan. They can also assist in identifying the most cost-effective solutions and implementing them smoothly, ensuring that your technology investments yield the best possible returns.

2. Prioritize cyber resilience

Cybersecurity is essential for protecting sensitive data and maintaining customer trust, especially for SMBs that may not have the resources to recover easily from a breach. This encompasses areas such as application security, cloud security, network security, data protection, data compliance, and backup and disaster recovery (BCDR)

Begin by conducting a basic risk assessment to identify vulnerabilities in your current security posture. This can be challenging without IT expertise, but initial consultations and free online resources, such as SparkNav’s Ultimate Guide to Cybersecurity, can help you get started. A good starting point is to implement fundamental security measures such as firewalls, antivirus software, and strong password policies, and map out regular updates for these systems to protect against new cyber threats. Another essential foundational security practice is to map out your BCDR plan, to ensure you maintain business continuity in the wake of a cyber attack or server failure, and are able to get operations back up-and-running sooner, rather than later.

The next step is to assess solutions that can provide monitoring, detection and threat assessment capabilities to protect your sensitive business data from unauthorized access, malicious intent or general data breach. One such recommended solution is a security information and event management (SIEM) system, which is often provided by managed service providers who provide fully managed SIEM solutions on your behalf, as SIEM-as-a-service.

Employee training is also crucial, as many breaches occur due to human error. Train your staff to recognize phishing attempts and use secure passwords, which can significantly reduce risks, and seek the assistance of experts who provide cyber awareness training for further up-skilling.

Given the complexities of cybersecurity, partnering with a managed service provider can provide advanced protection and continuous monitoring. An MSP can offer tailored security solutions, including 24/7 monitoring, threat detection, and incident response, and also help ensure compliance with relevant regulations, protecting your business from potential legal issues.

Ultimately, by prioritizing cyber resilience and cybersecurity, you can better prevent financial losses and reputational damage from data breaches. A proactive approach to security not only protects your business, but also builds trust with customers, giving you a competitive edge.

SMBs need to remember these 5 things when developing their IT strategy

3. Aim to optimize IT infrastructure

Optimizing your IT infrastructure to improve operational performance and scalability should be one of your top drivers for an IT strategy, even if you don’t have an IT department. 

Start by evaluating and recording your existing hardware and software to identify outdated systems that may be slowing down operations or causing frequent issues (if you can’t do this currently, making a list can be helpful for future IT partners or MSP assistance). Also make note to list any specific hardware components that need upgrading or replacing.

Consider transitioning to cloud computing solutions, which offer flexibility and scalability without the need for extensive on-site hardware. Cloud services can support remote work, improve collaboration, and reduce costs. They allow you to scale infrastructure resources (servers) up or down based on demand, providing a cost-effective solution for your growing business.

For SMBs, it is true that managing this transition can be challenging. So consulting with a managed service provider on your optimization of operational efficiencies is recommended, whether at the beginning of your effort or later down-the-track once you have the budget to allocate. MSPs have the required expertise to guide you through selecting and implementing the best solutions for your business needs. They can handle the complexities of migration and fully manage the maintenance of your tech systems, ensuring minimal disruption to operations.

4. Invest in employee training

As we mentioned earlier, employee training, across all technology categories, is crucial for maximizing the benefits of any new solutions you deploy, especially if your SMB is without a dedicated IT department. Begin by identifying key areas where training is needed, such as basic IT skills, cybersecurity awareness, or specific software tools relevant to your business.

Developing a comprehensive training program might seem daunting, but you can start with free or low-cost online resources, focusing on establishing a culture of continuous learning by providing access to tutorials, webinars, and workshops. Tailor the training to different roles within your organization to ensure relevance and applicability – your line-of-business users, for example, might need more specific modern workplace software compared to managers. Regular training sessions and ongoing support help everyone stay proficient with new systems.

Consider incorporating a mix of training methods, such as hands-on workshops, online courses, and one-on-one coaching, to accommodate different learning styles. Providing access to resources like user manuals, video tutorials, and help desks can also support continuous learning and troubleshooting.

If you’re not confident in being able to kick-start training programs, an IT partner can assist in this area quickly by offering tailored training programs and ongoing support. They can help your employees stay updated with the latest technological advancements, ensuring your business leverages technology effectively. Investing in employee training leads to higher adoption rates and a better return on investment, so it’s a partnership investment well worth the money.

5. Plan for future growth

Planning for future growth is a critical component of a sustainable IT strategy. Both your specific business sector and the general technology landscapes are constantly evolving, and your IT strategy must be adaptable and flexible to keep pace. Start by making an effort to stay informed about emerging technologies and industry trends that could impact your business. Assess the performance of your current systems, identify areas for improvement, and make necessary adjustments.

Engaging with a knowledgeable IT partner or MSP can provide valuable insights and help you stay ahead of technological advancements. They can offer strategic guidance and proactive IT support, assist with long-term planning, and implement solutions that support sustainable growth. An MSP can also help you budget for future IT investments and anticipate potential challenges.

Things to remember when developing an IT strategy: Next steps

Developing an effective IT strategy is essential for SMBs aiming to grow and stay competitive. 

By aligning your IT strategy with business goals, prioritizing cybersecurity, optimizing your infrastructure, investing in employee training, and planning for future growth, you lay a solid foundation for success. 

While these steps provide a starting point, partnering with a managed service provider ultimately offers the best guidance, expertise and support needed to fully realize your IT strategy. 

Speak to the SparkNav team today to learn how we help you navigate this journey, ensuring your investments drive meaningful results, and position your business for sustained growth.

Robert Griffin
Robert Griffin
As COO, Robert Griffin plays an instrumental role in aligning operational excellence with strategic goals by leveraging his decades of experience in enterprise leadership. With deep knowledge and expertise in security, governance, risk, and compliance (GRC), and AI, his insights are often shared through thought leadership channels, including LinkedIn and blogs. → Follow Robert on LinkedIn.