Regular readers of my work know how adamant I am about technology planning. One of my first articles for Tech Page One covered the need for a technology disaster plan. Since then I’ve also written about budgeting for IT expenditures and a plethora of other articles about organization and efficiency. Planning ahead is critical in any organization, but so few take the time. Hopefully this article will convince you of the need and benefit of a long-range technology plan.
My article on disaster planning discussed the challenges of digging out from unforeseen occurrences and mitigating down time. However, a tremendous number of organizations face challenges when everything goes exactly as they’d expected. The computer that they “hoped” would last five years is still functional in year seven. They’ve trained staff to convert incoming Office 2010 files so they can be used with Office 2003. Each organization could have predicted the need for replacing or upgrading their infrastructure, yet they didn’t. Without the prediction, there was certainly no budget. Ouch.
I’m a strong proponent of a five year technology plan. Why five years? In most organizations, nearly all equipment should be replaced within five years, and it’s also a fairly safe bet that any software or hardware will be supported for five years.
What is a technology plan?
Many organizations have a hard time with the notion of replacing all technology over five years. Let me assure you, this practice costs less money. When factoring in costs of support and upgrades, replacing equipment every five years makes good fiscal sense. This doesn’t mean, and shouldn’t mean, that you replace everything all at once. I’m a proponent of stabilizing IT expenditures, thus replacing an equal dollar amount of technology every year. Organization’s I’ve worked with have found this method to work well, allowing flexibility in the case of a down year and advancement for years with significant profits.
When you consider future technologies, it’s much easier to consider them in five year increments than anything longer. Considering whether or not to implement technology over a five year plan can be very simple. Let’s consider bio-metric authentication. While it’s available today, it’s not widely implemented. Considering that costs should drop over five years and availability increase, it’s fairly easy to get a sense as to whether your organization can afford and benefit from implementing it.
The tech plan
These plans don’t need to be anything formal. When I prepare them for clients, they’re usually a list of all technology assets with a notation for the original purchase and replacement year. Any assumptions, concerns and thoughts that might be relevant should also be documented. It’s important that these planning documents persist beyond any individual’s involvement, and documentation is the best way to accomplish that.
It’s crucial to note that these plans are not, and should not, be set in stone. When considering actions and budgets over five years, you should be most certain of the details for the upcoming year. There is nothing wrong with being less certain as you look out over time. In fact, being overly fixed on what will happen in five years can only lead to problems. Be flexible, and let the plan adapt to the changes in your organization.
If you’re an IT pro, these plans can be a wonderful way for management and tech staff to understand each other. Through open discussion and revision of the technology plan, those that “speak geek” and those that do not will build a better relationship. Don’t let that opportunity slip by.
If I did my job well, you’re now willing to prepare a tech plan for your organization or clients. Moreover, you understand the importance and see the cost savings in planning versus reacting. If your organization doesn’t maintain a five-year technology plan, proposing one will make you look like a hero. If you’re an independent consultant, this can be extra revenue that your clients will appreciate. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: “We don’t plan to fail, we fail to plan.”Tags: Business,Strategy