While such an attitude is perfectly understandable, it’s unfortunately misguided. There has never been a better time to invest in technology and use it to drive business performance and growth.
The need for IT investment is also rising because firms are having to do more with less. Many have had to reduce headcounts and shift some staff to part-time positions to help keep a lid on operational costs. This means remaining teams need to boost their productivity to maintain expected levels of customer service.
Thankfully, the message appears to be finally getting through to senior management within Australian businesses. According to research firm Gartner, spending on IT is predicted to increase by 3.6% during 2021 and will top $95.8 billion. This follows what is an anticipated decline of 2.8% during 2020.
Interestingly, according to Gartner’s CIO Agenda survey, 54% of Australian and New Zealand Chief Information Officers report their spending on digital innovation projects has increased during this year, primarily due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Around 66% expect this spending to increase again during the next 12 months.
Such news is encouraging as it is exactly what’s required in response to virus-induced disruptions. Those firms that choose to invest now will be much better positioned to thrive once economic conditions improve.
There are six key steps that a business can take to ensure it is investing in the right technologies for the right reasons, and that those investments will pay significant dividends. The steps are:
1. Change your outlook: It’s all too easy to get caught up in the doom and gloom that is highlighted by news media and economic commentators. Rather than expecting the worst, step back and take a critical look at how things are actually changing. You might be pleasantly surprised.
It’s likely that demand from your customers has not disappeared and there are opportunities for growth. Change your thinking from “it’s all too risky” to “what do I need to do to prepare for the future”.
2. Examine existing processes: All businesses rely on having efficient processes to ensure productivity is high. Take time to critically examine those you currently have in place and identify those that could be improved.
3. Prioritise areas for change: Once areas that can be improved have been spotted, prioritise those which should be targeted first. These will be the ones that have the most significant impact on the business and will ensure any investments in IT will deliver the best ‘bang for your buck’.
Areas likely to benefit the most could include the removal of mundane and repetitive tasks and the streamlining of how data is moved throughout your organisation.
4. Let IT guide the way: Naturally, your IT department will be front and centre when new capabilities are being deployed, but they should not be left to run the show alone. IT teams need to work closely with the business to ensure the tools and functionality being rolled out actually meet real-world needs.
Set up a working committee at the start of each project that comprises members of both management and IT. This will make sure that decisions made are right for the organisation and that the project achieves the anticipated return on investment.
5. Assess and review: Once new projects have been completed, it’s important to closely monitor the results. Systems may need to be refined or adjusted so they can operate at maximum effectiveness and deliver the best possible value to the business.
6. Monitor new developments: Technology is constantly evolving, together with the ways in which it can be applied by a business. Be sure to monitor new tools as they come to market to determine whether any can add additional value to your operations. Consider using an external technology partner to assist with this process.
It might be tempting to sit on your hands and avoid decisions until the worse of the COVID-19 pandemic has passed, but this approach will almost certainly result in missed opportunities. By taking these steps now, you can be in a much better position to thrive once the much anticipated ‘new normal’ is finally achieved.