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The Boomer Bulletin - 2013
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Finding The Destination Point For Technology – Now And In The Future

Posted By Eric Benson, Tuesday, June 18, 2013

This article is the second in a series on building an effective strategic direction and budget for technology.  The first article discussed getting a good picture of where you are – in other words, establishing your current technology baseline.  It’s very difficult to find a solid direction if you don’t figure out what where you are.  Feel free to read the first article, available on our website, before you continue. 

Setting a strategic direction for technology

Having a baseline for technology in the firm should open the eyes of the technology team as well as key stakeholders in the firm.  If you took your baseline correctly, there was little assessment at the time, just recording.  Now is the time to decide where to go from here.

For many, this may seem like a silly step.  You have pictures of key technology locations so you can show improvement through the process, you’ve collected the IT documentation and know the gaps, and it seems pretty obvious that improving the current state is the end goal.

However, improving on what you current have in technology is not directional.  It doesn’t question previous decisions, and it also won’t plan for future impacts like office moves or smaller firm acquisitions (or being acquired, for that matter).

Finding a direction to go for technology is hard in a firm that is only concerned about improving the current state.  Many firms have a growth goal that defines how much the firm will make.  The same logic works here; without a direction to get the growth, there will be more talk about why you’re not growing than how to grow.

This article will covers three strategies for finding a technology direction:

  1. Establish a service tag line (mission) – Why are you here?
  2. What standards do you need to take to fulfill your mission?
  3. What can you do now, later and possibly never?

Why are you here?

Your firm may have branding slogan, mission or elevator pitch that defines who your firm is.  Why is your company here?  Use this as a starting point.  Then, as a team, answer the question – why is technology here at my firm?  

Here are some things to consider:

  • Have everyone at the meeting write down an answer to "Why is technology used at our firm?”
  • Look at the differences – what are your common themes?
  • Build a mission from here that is easy to remember.  It should be something you can use as a litmus test for future projects and service goals.

If your firm does not have a mission of its own, the technology mission statement may need to be tweaked as time goes on.  Keep in mind that this is a living statement that adapts to change.  You may get criticism that you are not in line.  Consider this excellent feedback, and ask how you can adjust to meet the needs of the firm.

Here’s an example that we can use:

"Deliver the right digital tools for employees to perform at maximum productivity.”

What do you need to do to fulfill the mission?  

I know the propensity will be "Well, know I know the why.  Let’s get on with the list of projects.”  Again, this falls into the hazard category; don’t fix what you have, make sure you know what to fix, replace and/or remove.  

Create a short set of standards based on the mission.  These standards are important because they will show what you will do to fulfill your mission, as well as what you will not.

Here are some examples based on the mission statement above.

Our standards to deliver the right digital tools for employees to perform at maximum productivity:

  1. Digital tools first – drive paperless initiatives through software and hardware selection.  
  2. Processes are needed for maximum productivity.
  3. Tools are not always new programs.
  4. We don’t always need new tools, but we need to pick the right ones to keep.
  5. We are only five staff members, our time is limited.  Make it count.
  6. We need to hand off non-digital tasks to other departments.

A list like this does not have to be published to the entire firm, but it should govern the way you engage going forward. 

What can you do now, later and possibly never?

The mission and standards are crucial if you want to drive leadership in technology through the next phase of your technology planning.  Now that you have these, you can start to evaluate all of the information you’ve collected.

You have a list of the top priorities for the firm, as well as what you considered were the top priorities for technology.  Are these still aligned with your mission and standards?  If so, you can proceed and look at the top projects you’d like to complete to bring your firm closer to your mission.  Try to find the largest impact projects, but don’t remove others from the stack. As you go forward, you’ll need to pick and choose your priorities ahead of the game, and this may be your first attempt.

Once you have a list, define the next step of each of these top priorities.   This does not have to be detailed at this point, but you do need to be in agreement on the big buckets and where you are going.

Where to go from here

This list, with some supporting evidence on impact and cost, will be a key step of the next phase.  If you don’t have your executive committee or managing partner on the team, the next step will be to create a presentation showing your mission, standard and how each project will move the firm forward.  We’ll discuss how to do this in a way that does not hide the costs, but looks at both costs and financial gain to the company.

The steps here may only take one meeting to create, but I cannot state how important they are to future success.  You now have a baseline, or starting point.  You also have a direction to take technology.  The next step is planning, and then we’ll cover accountability.

Enjoy the process.  It may not be easy, but you are on your way to great impact in your firm.

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