How to assess your tech needs for the New Year

There are plenty of things we want for the New Year. A gym membership, a new smartphone, or maybe a brand new car. IT administrators are very much the same. They want the most high-tech gadgets, fully refurbished server rooms, and the latest productivity-boosting cloud applications. But sadly, we can’t always get everything we want.

When it comes to business IT, you -- the executive -- have to be realistic about your tech investments. After all, the last thing you want in 2017 is to find out your new system is completely incompatible with your business processes. To avoid this, your tech wish list must include only what your business actually needs. And to find out what your business needs, you have to conduct a rigorous IT needs assessment.

Identify pain points

Before you rush into any big business decisions, review your company’s operations and identify areas of inefficiency and staff frustration. Get to the heart of the issue by meeting with managers and frontline staff, discussing what each department has been lacking for the past year and how workflow can be improved. If your employees are afraid to openly voice their concerns, use anonymous survey platforms like OfficeVibe or Google Forms to pinpoint any issues with your current system.

Perhaps current filing processes cause bottlenecks. Maybe team collaboration is absent, or the marketing team struggles with lead conversion. Whatever it is, getting first-hand accounts of your company’s pain points will help you find the right technology that addresses specific company problems.

Evaluate existing technology

After you’ve identified any burning problems in your company’s operations, review the performance of current office tech. If systems cause any of the workflow problems you’ve identified, consider finding more reliable alternatives. Staying with applications and systems that have far outlived their time (like Yahoo! Messenger has) may be a valiant effort, but if it’s not helping your company reach its objectives, then it’s not helping your company -- period.

Account for future business goals

IT systems need to support and complement business goals, so choosing a solution that can do exactly that is essential. For example, if your business was planning to establish multiple branches in different locations come mid-2017, your servers and applications should support your growth. Here, deploying an ERP system like Sage Intacct can help you store company records in a central data repository and consolidate finances for multiple locations with multi-entity and multi-currency management features.

Review your security

With attack vectors being discovered on an almost weekly basis, cyber security will always be a recurring necessity for businesses, and next year will be no different. What’s more, industries under specific data security initiatives like HIPAA, PCI-DSS, and the Sarbanes-Oxley Act are required to protect personally identifiable information with stringent network security measures. So if you’re not careful, a successful attack could cost your business thousands in data loss, legal fees, and customer trust.

To avoid this early, conduct security assessments to find any vulnerabilities in the following areas:

  • Firewalls
  • Antivirus software
  • On-premise servers
  • Workstations
  • Cloud infrastructure

If your IT professional has uncovered any vulnerabilities in these areas, apply the recommended countermeasures to plug these security holes immediately.

Assess the financial impact

If you decide a new system is viable, ask yourself this question: Do I have enough resources for the purchase? In this regard, it’s important to be realistic and prioritize your budgetary needs, even if you have a larger budget for the new year. Software license fees are a good starting point, but don’t forget that the initial price tag doesn’t include the costs incurred from installation, maintenance, and employee onboarding.

If you’re in the market for, let’s say, a cloud customer relationship management (CRM) solution, you’ll need to account for how much time it will take to migrate company files into the new system. Security and uptime are also crucial, so you need to make sure you’re paying for adequate IT support to monitor and maintain your cloud infrastructure. And since it’s a completely new system, you’ll also need to invest in training to get employees up to speed.

Ideally, you want to find a system that provides the most benefits for your business while staying well within your budget. It can be tough to find this balance, but a thorough ROI and cost-benefit analysis can help you determine whether the perceived benefits of purchasing a particular solution outweigh the costs.

Bring in an IT professional

Assessing the pain points can be a cinch, but what will you do about the more technical aspects of an IT needs assessment? If you don’t have an IT professional or tech-savvy employee to help conduct your needs assessment, hiring a managed services provider could help you finish the job. With a technical skillset, MSP IT consultants learn about your objectives, timelines, and budget, and create a tech recommendation that suits your business.

Contact us today to get a comprehensive IT needs assessment that will make your business more than ready for the coming year.

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