technology Is 2019 the year to review

your company’s IT? Tim Walker is managing director of Aura Technology, which provides proactive strategic IT consultancy, managed services and support to mid-market companies across the south. He shares his expert opinion on how companies should consider navigating a strategic IT review…

It’s the start of a new year and many mid- market businesses will be looking at the effectiveness of their IT infrastructure with a fresh and discerning pair of eyes. Having personally conducted and also been involved in a number of strategic IT reviews over the course of the past few years, I thought it was worth sharing some tips on what I think works well, in the context of what I think many businesses are looking to achieve.

Most reviews of an IT environment are initiated in response to some sort of compelling event, such as a systems outage, a data breach, concerns over personnel, or issues with an incumbent supplier. Our experience is that most incumbent IT suppliers and in-house IT teams are not doing what is required to effectively secure their customers’ environments.

The most successful strategic reviews of IT are successful because careful consideration

is given to the chosen consultancy organisation undertaking the work.

The scope of a review should cover three key areas: findings, risk analysis and recommendations. Findings should provide an in-depth analysis of the infrastructure, including local and wide-area networks, server infrastructure, back-up and business continuity arrangements. This all- encompassing research exercise will also cover existing strategy, policies, support arrangements for users and establishing their views of the current set-up and future requirements.

Risk analysis involves an easy-to- understand benchmarking of each area of the scope of your review, which is often rated using a Red, Amber, Green (RAG) colour code, showing the comparison of your IT with the company’s peer group – namely companies of a similar size in a

similar sector to the organisation. Ideally, such a RAG should show where you are now on each area assessed, and show where you will be after an agreed period – the clear intention being that the colour code improves markedly over this period.

The final, and perhaps the most important element, will cover recommendations. Each recommendation should be justified as to why it is being recommended, and will normally be broken down by section of the scope of the review – ie separate recommendations for server infrastructure, IT support arrangements.

Here are my Top 10 considerations for a strategic IT review to ensure it achieves the outcomes you require:

1 Strategy – it is key that any review starts by understanding your organisation’s objectives. It is impossible to align a technology strategy to an organisation without first having understood in some detail its direction of travel.

2 Cost – a review is typically chargeable. If the work is being given away for free or heavily discounted, it is probably not going to the level of detail you will need.

3 Independence – when was the last time the supplier recommended something other than just a variation of its own/preferred product set? Check this – for a review to be most valuable in the business world, it needs to be genuinely independent. So many IT companies have built their own private hosting environments, and their recommendations are biased towards filling up that hosting platform, rather than what is in the best interests of the customer.

4 Format – is the strategic IT review going to be delivered back to you in the right format for you? Do you really need a long, wordy report document? Agree the right format for you to spend your time efficiently and really understand the output.

5 Board – it is key that such a review has Board involvement and sponsorship from the outset. This means that the results/ recommendations will be aligned to your business goals.

6 Method – how will the review be conducted? Will it be on- site or remotely undertaken, or a combination of the two? How much time will be required of personnel in your organisation, and for what?

7 Interviews – for a review to have most impact, it will need to involve some one-to-one interviews with users of the IT along with, where relevant, some focus groups. This helps understand what users most need to do their jobs efficiently and effectively.

8 Information – what supporting information will you be provided with? Have a good understanding of additional information on the existing IT environment you will be provided with.

9 Timescale – how long will a review take, and what are the contingencies involved in its preparation? Is there for example, information required from third parties, such as existing suppliers of IT services?

10 Follow Up – what is the feedback loop process, and the ongoing management of the engagement with your organisation to ensure that the recommendations are successfully implemented?

I hope that whatever you are doing with your organisation’s IT in 2019 that this guide is of some use and prompts some useful thoughts in this area.


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