Most business leaders don’t fully understand their technology enough to come up with an effective technology budget. Because of this, I highly recommend every business leader establish a CIO for their organization, whether through an outsourced provider like aCOUPLEofGURUS, or a part-time executive. It is important to form a relationship with someone who understands your business, the technology running your business and the best ways to ensure that technology keeps your business running.
I’ve come up with a list of questions every business leader should ask their CIO.
What technology should we consider but haven’t already?
This is a question you should ask your CIO all the time. Different solutions solve different problems. As your business becomes more and more complex you need to be able to invest in the appropriate technology to keep up with that complexity.
For example, email has become the standard form of communication in the business world. Is email all you need? Maybe, but email is quickly becoming the “faxing” of internal communication. Tools such as Microsoft Skype for Business and Slack allow your employees to communicate with each other in what are essentially private social networks. These solutions are especially becoming a critical component in the communication systems of businesses with multiple locations or with remote staff. Those long “reply-all” chain emails that clog up people’s inboxes can be eliminated by starting a group chat or posting a question on the company wall.
What technology will help us achieve our 3, 5, or 10 –year plan?
Many business owners simply forget to consult their CIO on their 3, 5, or 10 –year plans. This is a big mistake. If you have your technology conversation too far into the conversation you are more willing to make costly compromises in the technology you plan and budget for. These compromises can ultimately cost you more time and money than if you had included technology in the conversation right away.
The fundamental purpose of technology is to automate manual processes. When you approach your future planning with that in mind it makes perfect sense that technology should be at the center of that conversation. Do you want a paperless sales force? Rather than buying them all iPads and expecting them to figure it out you want to build a proper plan to implement the technology into your business and make sure it is the right technology. I’ve seen businesses spend way too much money implementing technology that didn’t match where they wanted to go as a business. Never start the conversation with the solution in mind, rather, start with your goal – know where you want to go and then figure out the best way to get there.
What technology do we already have but aren’t using?
Far too often I talk to business owners who spend a lot of time and money on technology only to have it sit there unused. These situations are typically caused by either improper implementation or a lack of training. You can’t hand your entire sales team iPads with custom-designed apps and expect them to be used properly without first training them on the technology. Likewise, you shouldn’t spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a new ERP system without ensuring it will be properly implemented according to the specific needs of your business.
Every piece of technology you invest in should come with proper planning. You should know exactly what business need the technology will meet, who will be affected by the technology and what training they will need to interact with the technology.
A couple more thoughts on the CIO relationship.
I also highly recommend getting an outsider’s opinion. An outsider will have no attachment to the political undertones and organizational assumptions that an employee will have. They will typically be able to offer a fresh, new vision of what technology can support the future plans of the business. They have the freedom to think outside of the box and offer suggestions without being tied to the current technology. Many times a small business that has internal IT staff tend to be slower to adopt new technology simply because their internal IT staff doesn’t have the capability or expertise of knowing which technologies to focus on in the future.
If you would like to talk to me about our CIO services, I’d be happy to sit down with you. Just give me a call at 612-454-4878.