How to Use IT Strategically in Your Business to Gain a Competitive Advantage
When using IT in your business, it can be very easy to simply see it as a means to accomplish certain tasks rather than a tool that can be used to gain a competitive advantage.
Most businesses now use IT in some way but few utilise it to its full capabilities. When you make IT a key part of how your business operates you can improve your business in multiple areas and gain a significant advantage over competitors.
Making IT a key part of your business plan
In order to be successful, it’s vital that you have a plan for your business that clearly states what your goals are and how you’re going to achieve them. When you look at your business plan, how does IT fit in? Is it simply an afterthought that you fit in only where it’s absolutely necessary? If so, then you should think carefully about the areas of your business where using IT will be able to improve things.
If you’re not entirely certain how IT can be used best in your business then don’t be afraid to involve your IT staff and get their input.
Using IT for the benefit of your staff
When thinking about how IT can be used strategically in your business, one of the key things to consider is how it will make your employees’ jobs easier. Using an Industry-specific system for business management or employing Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software is a great way to use IT for the benefit of your staff (and business as a whole).
Business management software or ERP will help you to improve the efficiency of your business by eliminating the need for repetitive processes to be carried out by your employees. It also makes it much easier for your employees to access the data they need to deal with customer issues and improves communication between departments.
If you’re not currently using a specific application for your business or ERP in your business then you should strongly consider it as part of a strategic IT plan.
Using IT for the benefit of your customers
The flipside to using IT to benefit your staff is to use it for the benefit of your customers. The truth is that they’re not always mutually exclusive – by making the lives of your staff easier you also make it easier for them to better deal with customer issues.
There are specific ways you can implement IT to the benefit of your customers though. For example, your company website might currently make it difficult for customers to find what they’re looking for. Or your staff might not have access to up-to-date information about stock levels and as a result, orders are placed that cannot be fulfilled.
When considering how you can improve IT in your company for the benefit of your customers, you should ask yourself he following questions –
• Which processes are currently making things harder than they should be for your customers?
• What solutions could be implemented that would make things easier for customers and would they be happy to pay for it?
• How can you implement these solutions in a cost-effective way that sets you apart from your competitors?
How IT can give you a competitive advantage
When it comes to technology, businesses often either choose to ignore it as much as possible – only using it where strictly necessary; or they simply try to keep up with what they see their competitors doing.
These days IT security is always in the news and is a constant worry for many business owners who fear loss of custom, falls in the share price or losing their own job or livelihood! It’s important for any business to make sure they’ve put the plans and systems’ security in place to provide a strong and reliable structure for doing business or running their organisation. IT security and having a raft of measures in place to protect business continuity and reduce risk has become a necessary aspect of business strategy today – not a nice to have.
There is a third category of business though – the one that leads the way and uses IT in a way that provides true benefit and makes it stand out from competitors. This is what you want to strive for.
When you use IT in a strategic way, you can improve the efficiency, productivity and security of your business. It’s not hard to see how this gives you a significant competitive advantage while also making your employees and customers happier.
Have a Plan for IT that fits into your Business Plan
Many small (and some larger) organisations plan to replace machinery, furnishings, update their website or marketing materials as part of an overall business plan. Yet many fail to plan to maintain IT systems to maximise availability and performance for productivity and reliability! Why? It’s not part of a plan. It’s an afterthought. Putting an IT plan together is relatively simple and straightforward but it is vital in maintaining a competitive advantage to ensure users can conduct their work effectively and, today, to ensure your systems are secure and reliable for overall business continuity.
In 2016 and beyond, IT is going to become more and more a part of business strategy so those businesses that embrace technology now will reap the benefits further down the line.
If you’d like more information about using IT strategically in your business then don’t hesitate to get in touch and we’ll be happy to answer any of your questions.
Also be sure to check out our 15 Point IT Security Checklist here.
Image source: Quist Inc.