Over the past few years, I’ve been hired into IT positions that were vacant for a period of time (no CIO/ VP-IT/Director of IT). This means I was not aware of existing project plans or future goals. In this situation I’m starting from scratch, which means assessing the current environment to determine future plans.
The temptation in this type of role is to immediately identify high-visibility IT projects and push them forward. As the new IT expert, your chance of approval may be higher if you push projects early. In some cases, new technology may be appropriate.
However, assuming new tech is needed without fully assessing the existing environment often leads to IT-run-amok. I’m convinced this is a common problem for small to medium sized businesses (SMBs). IT-run-amok happens when new tech is added, without considering the implications of retiring the old tech. Left unchecked, IT-run-amok results in IT departments that are larger and more costly than necessary, due to the myriad systems and applications that must be supported. The problem may not present itself until many years later – perhaps long after the person responsible has left the company.
A better approach (in my humble opinion) is to assess and inventory the current technology, identify technology that will increase in cost and/or decrease in value over time, and define a strategic plan to retire the old, while enhancing the overall value to the business.
The process reminds me of an interior designer who inventories all existing furniture and decorations, then figures out how to best use the existing inventory, while adding key pieces that enhance the overall design.
Assessing an IT environment for optimization works the same way. First, we inventory what we already have to work with. This often includes legacy systems, recently implemented (but only partially completed) projects, and probably also shelfware. It is surprisingly common for IT managers to push for IT purchases, only to under-utilize the solution (or never implement). Identifying these lost projects can offer opportunity for quick wins with minimal investment.
After identifying what we already own, we need a solid understanding of business needs and where IT can add value. Talking with department heads and front-line employees will often yield insight here.
Finally, we identify areas where we can add key tech (or just connect existing tech) that provides cost reduction and/or business value for minimal effort.
It’s that easy.