Whether you have an internal IT department or use a managed service provider, the reality is that your IT function controls your organisation.
When I started in IT in the late 80s, such a notion would have been scoffed at by some of the older managers. They would have contested that a mere few years before, the business was doing fine with little more than calculators and typewriters.
30 years later, businesses are now dependent on technology because it has repeatedly demonstrated its worth. IT teams have delivered value not only for strategic goals, but also by developing independent initiatives.
Yet still there are those who think of it as a drain. They regard technology with suspicion and demand that the business people control IT decision making.
Yet by doing so, they strangle the very innovation that has served so well.
Better would be to collaborate with IT, embracing the opportunities it presents, because the adoption of technology has been shown time and again to increase efficiency and improve the customer experience.
When asked what I do, I say I’m an IT expert and commercial design thinker who helps businesses improve their profit per person.
To date, this is the most apt epithet I’ve found.
But it’s also intended to elicit a request for clarification.
When it comes, I tell them what I actually do is work with businesses to span the divide that so often exists between leaders and the technology and technicians that run their business.
I help them gain a greater understanding of IT’s role and how it can be used effectively to energise the team, improve efficiency, and better engage with prospects and clients to deliver a larger customer lifetime value.
As for why do I do this?
Simply put, I’m living the dream.
From the earliest age knew I wanted to teach, and in 1987 when I started to learn about computing I knew I’d found my niche.
50,000+ hours in my chosen career later, I’ve supported, invented, designed, developed, educated, consulted, spoken and authored on a subject I love.
Today, I innovate and educate, sharing my vision of a business world that embraces technology to empower it’s people.
I consider myself lucky to know my why. Do you know yours?
Get it right and it will transform your business, giving your team what they need when they need it.
WHY ARE YOU DOING IT?
Clearly identify the problems you’re solving. Without clear purpose, you are destined to fail.
WHO WILL DO IT? Picking a development partner is hard. You’re starting a long-term relationship, so take the time to find one who’s right for you.
WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO?
Failing to prepare is preparing to fail, so you cannot do enough planning.
Create a detailed plan with your development partner. This should include screen mock-ups, program flow, data models, storage requirements and much more. Changing the plan once you’ve started is EXPENSIVE.
HOW WILL IT BE DONE?
You need to understand the technology and the developer needs to understand your business. It’s an opportunity for both camps to expand their knowledge. By doing so, communication will be far simpler.
WHEN WILL IT BE DONE? It will take FAR LONGER than you anticipate, so ensure your plans include a pragmatic timeline and the functionality you expect at each way point.
Would you like to make an asset that will pay for itself many times over?
FIRMWARE: The software that runs your network routers, firewalls and starts your PC
If you want efficient and effective systems, they MUST be kept up to date and ‘just right’.
HARDWARE: PCs need to be updated regularly. It’s a false economy not to. People are expensive, so why give them a tool that makes them slower than they could be. The same argument applies to servers and even printers.
Ultimately, the older a machine is, the less efficient. How old is too old? 5 years is starting to push your luck.
SOFTWARE: Updating software versions, whether you like it or not, is something that needs to be done sooner rather than later.
New versions of your anti-virus and operating systems are supplied by vendors for a reason. A failure to use them puts your business at increased risk.
FIRMWARE – The forgotten ware. This is just software, so it’s subject to the same vulnerabilities as anything else. But given that it keeps the bad people out, you should make sure you have the latest and greatest.
Are regular updates part of your daily IT life, or do you put them off until tomorrow?
Every business should know about the importance of having robust backup and disaster recovery processes and testing them at least one a year.
However, should a little sloth or complacency be consuming you, I’ll put their value into perspective for you.
Every hour that a business is down will cost
– small business around $8,000
– medium business about $75,000
– and large enterprise $700,000
When Woolworth’s and BWS were without a functional point of sale system for just 30 minutes because of a server upgrade, the reported cost was $1,000,000.
According to some sources, as many as 90% of businesses, without a disaster recovery plan, will fail in the event of a major incident. Whether that’s accurate or not is unclear, but there’s certainly no smoke without fire.
The need for a comprehensive disaster recovery policy should be clear, but given the complexity of modern systems, it’s impossible to avoid all eventualities.
But it shouldn’t stop you trying to mitigate what you can.
The title for this post poses the question “WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO LOSE?”.
The short answer to that is absolutely everything.
Just checking, but have you and your MSP tested your backups and DR recently?
I always enjoy talking to business leaders and I’m often struck by how much they love their industries and how knowledgeable and passionate they are about their field.
But today, with the explosive rate of technological change, it’s no longer enough just to be good at what you do. In the last few years, the competitive landscape has changed significantly, and savvy business leaders are starting to innovate and leverage new opportunities.
But for many, the immensity and complexity of the IT world means the digital revolution can feel costly and out of reach.
And that’s why I developed the Profitable People Workshop, a half day program for business leaders.
✅ It will help you understand the common IT mistakes that businesses make and how to avoid them
✅ You’ll learn how the 5 principles of IT increase efficiency and improve the customer experience
✅ You’ll see how effective IT solutions pay for themselves many times over
✅ You’ll review existing systems and may identify hundreds of thousands in savings
Turning your IT in to an asset that will support your business for years to come will take time, but all journeys start with the first step.
Far too many businesses opt for DIY IT to save a few dollars. But it costs them far more than they save.
We bought a house a few years ago and we wanted to decorate. My wife was keen to keep costs to a minimum so she suggested that we do the work.
Not being overly adept at these things and keen to have a high quality finish, I instead got a quote from a professional. Bob told me that he could do it for $5,000 and that it would take 13 days, working 8 hours a day.
I then considered what would happen if I did it.
I’m not a professional so I’d be half the speed, so it would take me 26 days. I’d also be using weekends, so I’d probably only do 4 hours a day.
That would mean I’d spend 26 weekends decorating, which is 6 months of not doing as good a job as a trained professional. 6 months not playing golf; not fishing; not adding value to my family. And 6 months of mess just to save a few dollars.
The same applies to your business. While you’re tinkering with IT, you won’t get a professional result and you won’t be focussing on revenue generating activities and finding more customers.
And ultimately, they’ll make you far more money than you’ll ever spend on professional IT help.
Technology will make your people more profitable. This is my core concept, my “big idea”.
It’s a touch dry for a book title though, so “Doing IT for money” it is, and how exciting to see it on the first versions of my cover.
Sadly many businesses don’t seem to understand this fundamental tenet. They get lost in technology, excited and dazzled by the prospect of bleeding edge solutions that often offer little more than a new slant on an old favourite.
Perhaps then, a reminder of the 3 basic rules of effective IT use in business. It should…
1 – provide a solid and safe foundation on which a business can operate
2 – align with the business strategy, improving the team’s performance
3 – align with the marketing goals, increasing customer engagement
Note how there is no reference to computers!
The reason for this is simple. IT is not about computers. They’re just a tool to help your people be better at whatever it is that they do.
Put simply, IT is an enabler. If you apply this simple mantra every time you make an IT decision and remember that you’re “Doing IT for money”, you won’t go far wrong.
So tell me, did your last IT changes adhere to the rules, or were they IT for IT’s sake?
I’ve spotted a disturbing trend. Most startups seem to have a limited grasp of the what they want to build, and that’s GUARANTEED to increase development costs.
So, a few ideas on what to do before you let developers near your baby.
1 – Get a CRYSTAL CLEAR image of what you want. A few vague mock-ups and the comment “it’s a bit like [insert name here]”, ain’t gonna cut it when you present your idea to a tech team or VC guys for funding.
2 – Single version – Do you really need an app AND a website? Unless you NEED specific device features, consider using just a website
3 – Data – Write a detailed list of every bit of data that your app will need
4 – If you think it, INK IT! – Ideas in your head are WORTHLESS. Write them down
5 – Keep it very simple – Unless you pare your vision back to the basics, you’ll spend thousands on features unnecessary for version 1
6 – Do your maths – Even off shore developers are costly. Know what your money will buy
7 – Make a plan and stick to it – Changes to a project mid way are ALWAYS expensive. Minimise them by getting your plan right before you start.
8 – You get what you pay for – Commercial grade software takes skill and precision, so pick your development partner wisely
There are five basic principles that we need to understand if we’re to make effective use of the frantic and highly volatile world of modern information technology, and each of these has three tenets. Following the time-honoured tradition, I’ve named the five principles using words that result in an acronym – FASES.
Foundation – Systems, solutions and strategy
Assistance – Equip, educate and encourage
Simplify – Processes, procedures and practices
Engage – Customers, connect and collaborate
Strength – Invest, innovate and iterate
Happily, the marketing writes itself: ‘There’s no silver bullet – implement your IT in FASES’.
Foundation refers to the fundamental nature of IT systems within an organisation and is based on the systems, solutions and strategy. It covers the core requirements of IT such as backups and disaster recovery, managed service providers, and the scary sounding shadow IT. It encourages you to align your IT strategy with those of the business and marketing, and helps you to see the mountain of value that your IT systems represent.
Assistance is all about the needs of the people who run your business, their three primary requirements being equipment, education and encouragement. It teaches you how to energise your team by providing them with the tools they need to do their job. It highlights the vital importance of ongoing education and staff development. And it creates evangelists, putting your leadership front and centre, urging you to embrace your IT, and encouraging your team to do the same.
Simplicity builds on the ideas laid out by foundation and assistance, but from the perspective of the needs of the business and the efficiency of its people with regards to procedures, processes and practices. It teaches you to look at your business and how it operates objectively to find ways in which you can incrementally improve your day-to-day activities. It helps you understand how you can guard against the unforeseen and minimise your exposure to the volatility of staff turnover, and it introduces the ideas of innovation and building a future that’s perfect for your needs.
Engage changes the focus from the internal to the external and looks at how a business and its IT can work with customers and prospects to deliver a better customer lifetime value, and third parties to simplify the supply chain. It brings your website, its purpose and its value into sharp focus. It discusses the many varied ways in which you can use technology to communicate, both with people and other machines, and it tells of the enormous importance of your relationship with your customers and prospects, and how your IT can facilitate it.
Strength is a reference to how organisations can continue to thrive in the future as they invest, innovate and iterate. Strength encourages you to remember that your IT is an asset that needs to be continually developed if it is to carry on delivering real value. It urges you to look for ways in which you can create innovative solutions to your problems to give you an edge over your rivals. Only by making your IT a core feature of your business, and engaging with it at every opportunity, will you really be able to grow your organisation.
If I were to strictly adhere to the ideals of design thinking, I’d be following a dogma, and that would rather miss the point. The beauty of design thinking is that it encourages a pragmatic approach to problem solving.
Where we definitely do align is that it is a human-centric exercise.
Whatever issue you’re trying to address, its purpose is to benefit people in some way.
With regards to IT and the use of technology, I aim to put the needs of employees, customers, and many more at the centre and find ways to wrap technology around them to make life their lives easier.
This is done first by identifying a requirement and then observing it from many different perspectives. Only by understanding its true nature, by questioning assumptions, and by asking why a lot, can we begin to define a solution.
And then, only by repeatedly testing and then challenging the results can we find one that’s both practical and value for money in the long term.
It is, as I say about FINDING THE RIGHT ANSWER, NOT JUST THE FIRST.
Do you work hard to find the best solution, or are you guilty of falling for the ease of quick and dirty answers that are cheap today but will cost more over time?
I recently heard a C-Suite exec argue against innovation and the adoption of IT and it almost left me speechless, and that is a rare thing I can assure you.
My assertion was as ever that every time a person does a job a computer can do, the average cost to a business is $100,000.
The response from the exec was very illuminating.
“Yes, but an extra person is a known cost. Using IT is a big unknown”.
At face value that may seem reasonable. However, it’s simply not true.
IT doesn’t always result in an obvious or immediately tangible outcome, so it’s often thought of as a cost rather than an asset.
If it were a digger, there’d be no problem. We all know a JCB can dig holes in minutes while many men with hand tools will take hours.
But computers are perceived differently, and yet they’re machines like any other. They help us do jobs quicker and with fewer people. So why would they be a cost and a big unknown while a digger is considered to be a money saving asset?
Your IT spend is a short term cost, but it buys an asset that will continue to deliver value year after year. And whatever the price, it will be far less than employing people to do the same job.
As I spent much of my career dreaming up technical solutions, selling isn’t my forte. So I spent Wednesday with Glen Carlson learning as much as I could. As always happens when I visit the Dent Global team, I’m given cause to reassess many of the things I think I’ve understood, and this week was no exception.
Sometime late morning, Glen wanted us to articulate our big idea: the simple statement that defines the essence of our businesses. This isn’t the first time that I’ve tried to do this, and while I’ve come close before, I’ve never quite nailed it.
I can explain that by innovating and implementing effective technology solutions…
► You can energise your team
► You can increase efficiency
► You can lower your wage bill
► You can better engage with your customers
► You can improve your brand value
► You can increase your customer lifetime value
But never before have I been able to articulate all of that in a simple statement. But on Wednesday, the creative juices were flowing and from dark recesses of mind came the simple statement that…
TECHNOLOGY WILL MAKE YOUR PEOPLE MORE PROFITABLE
Get in touch today and arrange a workshop and find out how this simple idea can save your business hundreds of thousands of dollars.
In August 1991 a tall, skinny, eager and ignorant young me in my first and only work suit, arrived at my new job as a trainee in IT tech. support.
My first job was to setup my IBM PS/2 with its 80386 processor, 1Mb of RAM and 11″ black and white screen. 5 years later we were rolling out 80486 processors with 4Mb of memory, a 512Mb hard drive, a 14” in colour display that could handle 800 x 600 resolution, and a sound card.
Fast forward to today and my laptop has 12Gb of RAM, a solid state hard drive and a high definition 17” screen. It’s connected to a 23” 10 point touch display and plugged in to a network of billions of devices that span the globe.
We send 8,000+ tweets, upload 850+ photos to Instagram and send over 61,000Gb of data around the Internet every second and drones are carrying people.
We are living in a tech. revolution and the rate of change is increasing.
So, if you’re not going to leverage the best of today’s technology I have two questions for you.
WHY NOT and WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?
Remember, you’re in a race and your smart competitors are already innovating to improve efficiency and deliver a superior customer experience.