A version of this article originally appeared in Construction Executive.
All industries benefit from advances in technology. From leveraging mobile computing technologies, cloud-based services, and even consumer electronics, there are a plethora of vendor offerings.
However, with all the available technology choices in the market today, how can your organization determine which technology is worthwhile to implement? How can you get a competitive advantage over your peers or improve operations?
The process for developing a strategic technology plan is no small undertaking, even though it’s a worthwhile exercise. It requires a project champion to spearhead the effort, buy in from executive management and department heads, and considerable planning.
But in the end, your organization will have undergone a comprehensive process to help lead its digital transformation. The plan will ease the transition of adopting technologies that ultimately benefit the organization, and the amount of upfront effort will be worth the time and energy.
How to Establish a Strategic Technology Plan
A strategic technology plan serves as a roadmap for digital transformation of organization operations. It helps align new technology project implementations and changes with the future vision for the organization and its objectives.
With a strategic technology plan, an organization can anticipate and map out the resources to purchase, implement, train, and deploy selected solutions.
The plan’s process can be divided into five distinct stages:
- Establish a steering committee and brainstorm
- Review your current setup
- Interview key individuals
- Analyze and assess the data
- Prioritize plans
Establish a Steering Committee and Brainstorm
The first step is to assign a steering committee made up of the various stakeholders in the organization, including owners and executives, engineering, project management, superintendents, and administrative teams.
Begin by brainstorming. Think big. What information do you wish you had at a time and place for business advantage? New ways of thinking about what you’re already doing can yield impressive results.
Here are key considerations for the brainstorming process:
- Increasing resource utilization
- Improving schedules and forecasts
- Lowering working capital tied up in work-in-process projects
- Streamlining routine processes to create more efficiency
In many cases, better information is a current barrier to these ambitions, and new technologies can quickly eliminate these barriers.
Results of a brainstorming session, no matter how futuristic, will help reveal areas to pursue real organizational value. This phase should produce a high-level roadmap of improved organization and information capabilities and a vision statement that illuminates the value.
It’s also a good idea to get an outside perspective and broaden the outlook of what’s possible. Methods can be learned from other industries to gain benefits.
Review Your Current Setup
Next, get a lay of the land with regards to your IT environment and its current capabilities.
Here are some critical questions to ask:
- What data am I not getting from existing systems that would help our team deliver better services?
- What setup and access limitations exist in the network and systems?
- How can current IT systems provide faster and more accurate access to data needed at job sites and project planning meetings?
This is also the point where you should consider the real-time pulse of your organization and the differences between what’s possible and what’s probable.
Interview Key Individuals
Once your setup has been reviewed, interview key individuals in executive management, engineering, project management, information technology, sales and marketing, and administration services like accounting, procurement, and the front office.
The purpose of these interviews is to:
- Obtain an understanding of everyone’s pain points and deficiencies when it comes to the daily use of existing systems
- Understand what system improvements they need to make their jobs easier and operate more efficiently
- Gain insight on how their jobs may be evolving based on the industry’s direction
Employees can provide a lot of input on technology trends from industry conferences they’ve attended, technologies they’ve encountered with competitors, and technologies they may have researched on their own. Executive management or ownership can provide their perspective of how technology should align to established strategies, how much the organization expects to rely on certain technologies, and what these technologies may cost.
The interviews should allow you to update the high-level roadmap and vision statement you completed during the initial brainstorm. In some cases, this is a good time to consider pilot projects that can quickly be implemented to test a new technology. Pilots can uncover additional considerations, reveal other related value, and build support for broader implementation.
Analyze and Assess the Data
Once all data is gathered from the existing technology environment and interviews with key staff and management are completed, it’s necessary to analyze and assess the data to identify technology needs and deficiencies. Then, you can create potential projects to address both of these issues.
Analysis and assessment of the data collected should consider the following questions:
- How do the needs of the individual organization units match up to the strategic goals set by executive management?
- What technology projects should the organization undertake to address its needs, and which projects are most beneficial to the organization as a whole?
- What are the expected resource needs—capital, time, and people—to ensure that the strategic technology plan is actually feasible and realistic?
A potential list of technology projects should result from the analysis and assessment exercise.
For each potential project, there should be ample information provided to help with the prioritization and plotting of the project in the plan schedule, which can be a Gantt chart or similar.
Key information includes:
- Clear description of the project that states—in layman’s terms—what it is and what issue or need it fulfills
- Strategy it addresses
- Benefits of implementation
- Drawbacks or risks
- Order of magnitude costs for acquisition, implementation, customization, consultation needs, employee training, and maintenance
- People resource needs in terms of anticipated project hours
- Approximate duration for completion
Once the project descriptions and associated details are documented, hold a project prioritization meeting among the steering committee. The purpose of the meeting is to identify and prioritize the technology projects that should occur over the next three-to-five years.
Each project should be discussed and scrutinized by the steering committee to determine if it’s worthwhile to pursue, given a pre-established set of criteria.
Criteria considerations may include:
- Does the project benefit the entire organization?
- Is the project customer-focused?
- Will it have an immediate impact on revenue growth?
- How long will it take to implement?
- What resources are needed?
- What’s the degree of risk involved?
- Can an overall cost be determined?
As projects are prioritized, they are subsequently plotted on a timeline spanning the plan’s coverage period. Anticipated availability of funds for special projects should be noted for each year of the plan to apply towards technology projects.
Technology projects are then assigned to specific years based on priority and the availability of budgeted funds to allocate toward each project. In the end, the organization should have a Gantt chart, or similar project plan, to serve as an illustrative roadmap of future technology projects and where technology funds and resources will be spent. This roadmap aligns with the organization’s strategies because it considers needs and input from all aspects of the organization.
We’re Here to Help
Developing a strategic technology plan that aligns with overall organization-wide strategies can help you navigate technology changes and guide technology spending over future years. Most importantly, leadership needs to start the conversation. The perfect time will never arrive, and perceived limitations are often overcome with new perspectives.
For more information on how to develop a strategic technology plan for your organization, please contact your Moss Adams professional.