SMB IT priorities must align with business goals to be realistic and attainable.Implementing any element of an IT infrastructure could be called an adventure, but you’ll most likely hear it referred to as a headache. That’s because often IT implementations don’t follow the course originally outlined. The scope of the project changes, the budget inflates, and the end results are not what you expected.

The problem could be that your IT priorities aren’t realistic for your business strategy. The whole concept of “Build it and they will come,” is great for the movies, but it doesn’t work in technology. Instead, your IT priorities need a structure and they need to be strategically aligned with business goals to ensure that the results you expect are the results you achieve.

Creating Unrealistic IT Priorities

No one sets out to set unattainable goals for the IT projects. When your team gathers to develop the plan for a new project, everyone has their own ideas about what the end result will be. Sure, everyone might agree that when implementing a new sales application the goal is to increase sales. But each person on the team will view that success in a different way.

Your VP of Finance will be looking for decreases in costs and increases in the bottom line. The VP of Sales will be looking for increased sales numbers. The CTO will be concerned with ensuring the application is implemented and functions properly. And the CEO will want to see improvements in growth and competitiveness. Everyone’s priorities will be different.

Unfortunately, when you try to cram all those differing priorities into a single implementation, you lose sight of what the implementation was initially targeted to achieve. What happens, then, is different features are added or taken away, the project grows in size or scope which balloons both the budget and the time to complete the implementation, and in the end, the original implementation is lost in translation and the result is something completely different from what you envisioned.

How do you align your IT priorities with your business strategy in such a way that the project is realistic and the results are attainable?

Five Ways to Align IT Priorities with Business Strategy

It’s not enough to have a vision of the end result of your IT projects. You must also have a roadmap that guides you through the process of the project to reach that result, and that road map should contain five guideposts to keep your IT on track:

One: Answer the basic questions.
The who, what, when, why, where, and how of the project are essential to ensuring that as you establish priorities for your project, you’re choosing the right ones. Who are you targeting with your IT improvements? What will be the result of the project? When does the project need to be complete and is this the right timing for the project? Why is this stated result important to your organization? Where does this initiative fit into your strategic business goals?  How will the project progress through each stage to completion?

These won’t be easy questions to answer, but getting them right will help keep your IT projects on track and ensure that your business priorities are in alignment with the investment being made.

Two: Define your desired result.
After you’ve developed the specific details of your project, what is the desired result? How will you measure that? How will you track it? Here’s where IT often goes off the rails. A lack of measurements, especially when implementing a new technology, leaves too much room to veer in one direction or another. It’s better to put some guardrails in place to keep your priorities in check and your project on track.

Three: Determine what it takes to reach that result.
This is the guidepost that can determine whether your desired IT investments are truly worth the time and effort it takes to make them work. It’s not enough to say you want service response in minutes and implement a technology to assist service reps if you don’t have the bandwidth to make that application work properly. Dig into the agreed-upon desired result and outline the steps it will take to get there. Do you have the right talent? Do you have the right resources? Do you have the right leadership? Create specific requirements that must be fulfilled to make the desired outcome attainable and then evaluate those requirements to determine the resources needed.

Four: Look closely at your timeline.
A good rule of thumb when implementing technology is to expect the project to take longer than expected. It may not, but if you build in the extra time on the front-end, then when you’re nearing completion, you’re not surprised or pressured by looming deadlines that will be impossible to meet and expensive to miss. IT implementations take time, no matter what the platform. There are integrations with other applications, data to migrate, hardware to manage, and users to train, among a thousand other activities that must take place. If your timeline is too tight, there’s no margin for error. Better to have that margin and not need it.

Five: Evaluate your results and determine their alignment.
Once you’ve passed all the other guideposts in planning for your IT implementations, stop and evaluate the information you’ve created. Look at the project objectively assess if it’s still as important as initially thought. Is it realistic for your company to invest that money into creating a cybersecurity program that could be used to protect the Pentagon? Can you really afford to create and store backups of every system every hour? Would a compromise be equally functional but better suited to your organization and the business goals driving your IT strategy? This is when you should be your most realistic in what you want versus what you need versus what you can afford.

Creating realistic IT proprieties isn’t easy. It means planning and work, and sometimes compromises. But if you follow these five guideposts and look objectively at your IT initiatives you can develop realistic, and attainable IT proprieties that will help your business remain competitive in today’s tough landscape.