In a recent survey I conducted with Auckland Certified Builders, I asked them to list their 3 main frustrations in business.  Answers were a bit varied, as one might expect, but common complaints were: cash flow, running multiple projects, budget blowouts on projects and too longer hours.

Although there is no magic bullet for these problems, a better use of available technology might help.  Many tradies acknowledge the benefits of better integrated Information Technology (IT) in their business (83% in a recent US survey), but the same survey showed that only 28% of companies were actually doing it.  Why?  Most owners consider IT a necessary evil and are not committed, or confident, enough to embrace it.  It’s all too complex, full of nerdy jargon and full of risk if you make the wrong choices.

So how should you go about planning for better integration of IT in your business?  US expert, Dennis Stejskal suggests a 10-step process for developing an IT plan for your business that will minimize the risks and make the whole process seem more manageable.

You wouldn’t start a construction project without a plan. Likewise, you need an IT plan to get the most from your technology investment. Whether you are creating a business case to address one key issue, an annual plan or a multi-year strategy, the following 10 tips will guide you through the IT planning process:

1. Start with your objectives. Defining your most important short- and long-term goals will help you determine what technology will most align with your strategy.

2. Assess weaknesses in your current IT infrastructure. Are some applications outdated or inefficient? Do you lack integration between important systems? Can your team access enough information at jobsites?

3. Get feedback from your employees/contractors. What technology do they need to do their jobs more effectively? If you’re getting requests from employees, consider adding those requests to your strategic plan.

4. Define the expected benefits. What positive impact do you expect each new technology to achieve? Benefits may include increased productivity, decreased costs, better communication or more satisfied customers.

5. Calculate a clear return on investment (ROI) and include a payback timetable. Consider both hard savings (for example, eliminating an in-house server) and soft benefits (for example, greater efficiency or easier collaboration).

6. Define the cost of doing nothing. In addition to the ROI associated with carrying out your IT strategic plan, include a description of the risks and potential costs of not investing in new technology.

7. Consider a phased approach. You don’t have to accomplish everything at once. Sometimes it can be more cost effective to adopt technology in stages. It can also be easier for employees to adjust to incremental changes.

8. Find the budget for IT investments. Demonstrate how your proposed IT initiative will fit into the overall budget. A phased approach may provide progress now without breaking the bank.

9. Be mindful of longer-term goals. Although you may be planning initiatives for this year, look two, three or even five years down the road. Investments made today should help build the IT infrastructure you will need later.

10. Plan to get employees to use new technology. Does your company culture encourage change? Do you need to provide additional training? What processes can you put in place to help employees adopt new technology?

Although I am not an IT expert, I get to see a number of industry-specific software systems as part of what I do.  If I can help with some suggestions on what you should be putting on your short list, then email me HERE.

Andy Burrows

The Trades Coach