OK, I admit it straight away I am going to say Strategic, but as one of my roles is acting as a virtual Chief Technology Officer (vCTO)/Interim IT Director for companies, I would say that.

So why do I ask the question in the first place? I am always stunned by the number of people I come across who think of technology as just a tool and do not use it to help drive their business strategy. What makes it funnier is that the strategic planning is invariably pulled together through the use of technology. Word documents and Spreadsheets are used to write the business plan, email to ask for comments and suggestions from business stakeholders and mobile phones to get advice. Yet does it get actual consideration? Very rarely. So I would like to take the next 5 minutes to discuss why technology should be a driver in your business strategy.

So let’s think about a few strategic decisions a company might make and possible technology solutions.

Strategic Move Technological Solution
Geographical Market Expansion 1. Remote Working Solutions
2. Communication systems
3. Websites
Market Penetration 1. Self service websites
2. Better Product placement via SEO
3. Affiliate schemes
Company Merger 1. Collaboration Systems
2. Systems Integration
3. Corporate Intranet
4. Communication systems

In each of these scenarios the Business Strategy has been decided and technology does become a simple tool to implement the strategy. But let’s look at these from a Strategic Technology perspective.

Strategic Technology Possible Strategic Outcomes
Remote Working Solutions 1. Expand your Market Geographically
2. Improved Work life balance for staff
Communication system 1. Customer retention
2. Expand your market Geographically
Collaboration System 1. Improve project turnarounds and efficiency
2. Improved work life balance
Self Service Website 1. Increased Market Penetration
2. Better Customer Retention

All of a sudden technology looks to be one of the drivers for your business strategy rather than just the tool to implement it.

So why does technology so often stay as the tool? Often this is simply because technology is not represented at board/strategic level, the CFO/Finance Director, who is often left in charge of IT is too busy preparing Management Accounts to be keeping up with technology or your business is just too small to warrant the cost of this role.  But there are a few things you could consider;

  • If your IT Support is outsourced, build a relationship with their Business Development Manager, whilst their main job is involved with ‘keeping the lights on’ they may have a few nuggets of useful information.
  • Read, there are plenty of magazines and newspaper columns dedicated to Business Technology.
  • Employ vCTO/Interim IT director regularly. This sounds expensive but it shouldn’t cost you a penny, a good vCTO is well informed on technology and seeing them regularly means they understand your business allowing them to offer solutions that improve your profits.

Technology is constantly moving forward and should be seen as something to help drive your business forward. Getting good advice or forging a relationship with a technology specialist will help your strategic planning for the future of your business.