We are at a unique point in history where several major technology trends are converging forcing businesses to change the way they look at consumers and technology assets. Swiftly adapting to these changes is becoming the differentiator on whether or not a company survives the changing economic, business and technology landscape or is replaced by a more agile and creative competitor.
How do you approach the complicated task of understanding your company’s technology needs considering the pace of changing customer behaviors and expectations? Also, how do you assess the value that you can gain from your “as is” application portfolio to determine your “to be” and remain competitive? In this blog, I will explore four major areas to consider when delving into the application development decision making process.
1 - Understand Long-term Business Goals
The goal of every business is to be efficient and profitable, and foster long customer relationships. Some more specific goals that we hear on a regular basis from our customers:
- Grow our customer base (by a defined target)
- Capture Market Share (by a defined percentage)
- Increase Profits (by a defined percentage)
- Improve customer service (by a defined percentage)
- Increase worker productivity (by a defined percentage)
Any of these goals, when met, should result in transformational change for a business and will likely require internal acceptance, multiple technology changes, and key partnerships for an overall success to be achieved.
2 – Understand Immediate Business Drivers
What areas of focus would yield tangible results for your business? What drivers would have the most impact on your business strategy and how are they prioritized to produce quick results for your company?Here are just a few typical business drivers and examples:
When providing services, products, and customer support the traditional adage in business has been to adopt a “low-tech”, high-touch” paradigm. The introduction of smart phones and tablets along with pattern changes driven by “always connected” consumers has begun to turn this approach on its head.
I just recently consulted with a very large (Fortune 500) insurance company that was struggling to adapt its business from a national agent based business model to a more self-service strategy similar to its competitors (Geico, Progressive). In the last few years, this company has seen a substantial base of its customers move to competitors.
Similar to the example above, many of our clients are finding themselves in the position where they must adjust their business strategy to include initiatives that update their application portfolio to include responsive websites which adapt to multiple devices and resolutions including web browsers, mobile devices, and tablets. Mike Whalen our Director of Web Development explains how responsive design works in his blog: “Responsive Web Design: What it is and Why Your Business Needs it.”
Most companies IT departments are not able to maintain “high nines” service levels for their critical applications. If they do, it comes at a great cost to corporate budgets and can lead to unpredictable capital expenditures for new hardware to address server refreshes, stability, or scale issues.
Take a look at what the differences are between 99% availability and 99.9999%.
In a traditional enterprise on premise or a hybrid solution, the hardware and software complexity and costs increase exponentially for each step up the availability ladder. Fortunately, Cloud and SaaS solutions now offer a realistic option for achieving reasonable service levels at a more affordable price.
A great example of this is the Microsoft Windows Azure cloud offering. It allows your organization to:
- Move toward Capital Expenditure Free IT Operations – Azure offers a predictable monthly pay as you go model.
- Scale as needed – Add servers or scale them back quickly.
- Lower Maintenance costs – The costs for maintaining the power, hardware, networking and potentially the server software including patching are included in the monthly fee removing this responsibility from your IT teams allowing them to focus on value add activities for your company.
- Gain high-availability through Resiliency and Redundancy – 99.95% uptime Service Level Agreement (refunds if the SLA is not met)
Operational Efficiency & Business Productivity
Are your teams enabled with the right technologies that allow them to effectively communicate and collaborate across project teams, departments, locations and geographies? Keeping operations efficient, and each line of business at the highest level of productivity is a business driver that no company can ignore.
Microsoft’s current cloud office offering has this covered quite easily. Office 365 allows you to leverage a single service that provides your company with email, online meetings, and secure document management that ensure your company’s IP and mindshare are preserved.
Jeff Mitchell our Director of IT explores the Office 365 product and the value it brings to businesses in his blog: “Office 365: The Definition of Value.”
3 - Understand Your Current Technology Portfolio
Does your current technology portfolio align with your desired business outcomes? What value do the applications in your current portfolio provide, if they are not adding value or if due to the age of the application they are subtracting from it, you have a problem on your hands that will actually get worse over time. These are some questions to think on when contemplating your current technology assets.
- What business functionality does your current portfolio allow? Break it down to functional capabilities.
- Which business drivers do the application positively impact?
- Does the application negatively affect or impede one or more business drivers?
- What would the impact on the business be if an application or supporting system was not available?
- Does the application provide core business capabilities or does it touch your customer?
- What gaps do you have in your portfolio? What can you not do that you need to do?
4 – Align Partners and Technologies To Enable Business Goal Success
Did you have a tough time answering some of the questions in this blog? Consider engaging with a technology partner that has experience working with companies like yours to align technology needs with business strategy!