We work with customers at every stage of the IT process. Sometimes we come in at the end and help procure and implement, other times we are there to optimize an existing environment to take advantage of advancements in technology or accommodate shifts in business. But our favourite time to work with clients is before any technology decisions have been made – when it’s still all about the business. The recent story in Municipal Interface about the success of a project with the City of Mississauga reminded me again of why this is so important.
Why do we like that phase? Because that’s when there’s a real opportunity to dig into the heart of the issue and find out what will push the business forward – rather than begin with the technology itself. It still surprises me how often we start with a premise like “we need to add more disk to our storage because we’ve run out of room” and end up with something like “we need to rework our storage strategy so we can access what we need quickly”. It might sound similar, but the solution is markedly different – and the shelf life of the second solution is many times longer than that of the first. As always, IT is under huge pressure to keep everything in perfect working order so we can continue to run our lives from our devices. What has changed is the pace and the intensity of demand, along with a requirement for IT to act as the “game-changer” for the business. Taking the time to review and truly understand the requirements of the business before acquiring new technology can feel like time IT simply doesn’t have. In reality, it can make the difference between facilitating a business strategy and a band aid solution by providing a clear view of the highest value projects. In the past, time and cost were significant barriers to initiating IT assessments. Today, that no longer needs to be the case. With every significant technology manufacturer developing global, automated tools, and recording customer feedback and the success and failure of technology options, an experienced, third party solution provider can draw upon a wealth of inexpensive options to deliver an insightful assessment. While your current situation is unique and new to you, others have been in a similar situation with comparable objectives in the past. Between the experience of your solution provider and the manufacturer resources, you will benefit from what we’ve all learned from similar circumstances - and can likely obtain a solid roadmap within a reasonable time at a fraction of the cost you might expect. With IT continuing to drive at lightening pace, it’s not easy to keep a handle on what will truly impact the business. Through deliberately plotted assessments, IT has the opportunity to objectively review the entire landscape (or a focused area) and find the projects with lowest cost, highest value and biggest positive impact to the business – as well as see those that may have big impact to IT, but will have high cost, long timeframes and low perceived value to the business. In the City of Mississauga’s case, a thorough assessment took an 18 month solution and turned it in to a 5 year plan, and allowed the city to deliver high value, online service to its citizens with significantly improved reliability. Starting with an assessment allows IT the opportunity to strike the difficult balance between low cost, high value and need; and to deliver high business value and keep the lights on.