Having worked with small and medium-sized businesses for many years, one thing that’s clear to me is that no two are alike. Even among those that compete in the same industries, every small and medium-sized business has its own unique character, culture and vision of success. Likewise, each has its own needs when it comes to technology.
There are some things, however, that most small and medium-sized businesses have in common. One of these is the need to ensure that they’re making investments in new technology carefully and getting maximum value from the investments they make. Small and medium-sized businesses just don’t have much margin for error when it comes to the tools that they use.
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According to a recent survey by Gartner, 80 percent of CEOs are increasing technology investments designed to counter the three big economic pressures of our times: inflation, supply chain constraints and a shortage of talent.
But having made those investments, it's up to tech leaders to ensure they're driving value. The same research found that a majority of CEOs are frustrated by the progress of their companies’ IT projects, saying that they say they take too long to complete (59 percent) and to realize value (52 percent).
That represents a real risk to IT leaders’ ongoing employment and to companies’ long-term success. What can CIOs do to ensure the technology investments they make quickly demonstrate real business value?
Prioritize Digital Initiatives That Align with Business Priorities
No action by IT leaders is more important than this basic step: Ensure that you’re fully plugged into the goals of the business as defined by the CEO and other business leaders, then prioritize projects that support these goals.
It sounds simple, and most CIOs I’ve met agree with the concept. The challenge is that CEOs don’t often define business goals in ways that clearly translate to digital priorities, so tech leaders must possess the vision to know which ones will.
For example, Gartner found that businesses were three times more likely to identify “improve customer experience” (45 percent) as a goal for digital transformation than “improve employee experience” (14 percent). A wise CIO, however, will recognize that these objectives are linked, especially when it comes to customer-facing employees. Therefore, deploying handheld devices that help retail associates locate merchandise quickly will lead to happier customers, as will installing the right cloud-based solutions to empower call center workers.
LEARN: Find out how businesses are leveraging modern applications towards success.
The percentage of CEOs who are increasing technology investments to counter economic pressures of inflation, supply chain constraints and a shortage of talent.
Source: Gartner, "CIO 2023 Agenda: 4 Actions to Ensure Your Tech Investments Pay Digital Dividends."
Why the Right KPIs Matter for Digital Success
A goal like “improve customer experience” can be difficult to quantify, yet defining success metrics is critical for CIOs trying to demonstrate the value of their digital projects. Here again, it’s vital to ensure alignment with business leadership: Ask the CFO and CEO to describe what success looks like for them, ask them to help define a reasonable time frame for when that success should be achieved, then think through the metrics that reveal progress toward that goal.
One challenge is teasing out an IT project’s contribution to a goal as opposed to other factors. Many things might contribute to an increase or decrease in customer satisfaction, for example, including things outside the control of the IT department. But if you can identify a reduction in wait times for customers calling your service center or an increase in using your app, you can get a picture of the ways a digital project led to tangible benefits.
DISCOVER: Understand how IT leaders are managing the impacts of inflation.
How IT Leaders Can Find Help in Unusual Places
I hear it almost every day from IT leaders: They are too busy putting out fires to focus attention on digital transformation projects. I sympathize with this dilemma, but the fact is that in business, fierce competition is like a rising tide: You’re either staying above it or drowning beneath it.
The good news is that a universe of third-party services exists to help organizations manage day-to-day challenges, from security and network monitoring to managed collaboration, data center optimization, multicloud management and much more. In addition, many of these services can be cost-neutral or even save you money while freeing in-house IT teams to focus on innovation.
Of course, services from a trusted partner need not be limited to day-to-day management of IT environments; they can also help IT leaders identify the right digital transformation projects to pursue and help map out a successful execution strategy. Whatever digital projects you pursue, it helps to have an expert partner by your side to ensure its success.