When it comes to IT projects for your business, there’s probably a long list of items that need to be accomplished every year, month, and day. How do you prioritize those projects when there are competing stakeholders, budgets, and time constraints? Figuring out your company’s IT priorities is no small task. Effective prioritization can help keep your small or medium sized business moving forward, assist with time management, ease the budgeting questions, and safeguard your company from potential cyber threats. To make sure your team is tackling the most important IT projects in a timely manner, our team at Spectra Networks can work with you to prioritize the projects and make sure they are completed in the timeframe needed. This can range from disaster recovery strategies, to daily maintenance including updates and patches, all the way to yearly reviews of risk assessments for both internal and external threats. We can help you figure out what should take priority, so you can get back to running your business.
What Are IT Priorities For Businesses in 2020?
Sometimes it is helpful to take a step back and examine what other companies in our IT industry deem as high priority to help things come into focus for your specific business. Netwrix, an Irvine, California-based private IT security software company that develops change management software, conducted an online survey which asked 1,045 IT professionals worldwide to name their top five IT projects for the next year. The results showed that 74% of organizations named data security as their top IT priority for 2020. This finding is not a huge surprise as more and more small and medium sized businesses are finding that they are vulnerable to attacks on their data, especially if they work with sensitive data such as credit card information or personal information that could lead to identity theft. In these cases, shoring up security systems and maintaining the latest software updates and patches is critical. In addition to ensuring firewalls and network security is functioning properly, employee training may help identify potential risks in emails, attachments, and methodology in the workplace. The Netwrix report also showed that 54% of respondents plan to focus on automating manual tasks. This could include automated running of reports, backup scenarios, and security protocols such as installing two-factor authentication on all devices. Among companies and organizations that are subject to privacy laws such as HIPAA regulations, 43% ranked data privacy among their top five priorities. For medical and dental practices that are required by law to maintain HIPAA privacy compliance, working with an experienced IT firm is of paramount importance. Now that we can see where the IT industry as a whole falls in prioritizing projects it may be helpful to review what strategies your company can use to ascertain your project goals.
Strategies for Prioritizing IT Projects
It may seem like an insurmountable feat to determine what projects, in relation to your company’s tech, need to rank top in priority and those that can wait a bit for implementation. Here are a few practical solutions to determining IT project priority.
Analyze Your Long and Short Term Goals
Every business has goals for each quarter and year. Take some time to work with your leadership team and key team members to hash out what your ultimate goals are both in the short term and the long haul. Create a list of your top goals vs goals that can be put on the back burner.By doing this, you ensure that everyone is on the same page in regards to mission and goals and you can discern what projects can help you meet those goals.
Prioritize Based on Value
Begin prioritizing by looking at each project on your list. Ask yourself one simple question. How will this project impact business and our clients? While you certainly want to take the organization’s bottom line into account, you also need to consider how a project will impact your consumers and loyal clients. Will prioritizing this particular project make life easier for customers or team members? Will it automate things and create a better workflow so projects can develop efficiently? Will it make office life better? Will it solve common issues that pop up? Take the overall value of the IT project into account when prioritizing.
This may be easier said than done. IT professionals know that what is urgent today may change by the end of the week given the vast number of technological advancements rolling out and security risks becoming all too real on a daily basis. Now that you have a list of goals created by your team, go over each and examine the level of urgency for each. Ask yourself this simple question: Does this project require immediate attention to keep the business on track or can it wait? Take some time to rank the urgency of your projects. Keep in mind that the urgency list may look vastly different from the value list you just created. Urgency does not equate with importance, but rather with time sensitive needs. Some projects, especially those including data backup and security protocols may take precedent not because they are more valued, but because they are more urgent. For example, if a catastrophe event occurred today, does your company have a contingency plan, backups that can keep the business going, or a disaster recovery plan that is up-to-date? If not, then the urgency of that particular project may need to rise to the top of the list.
Assess Your Bandwidth
So you have examined your project list and determined which tasks have higher value and which have greater urgency, now what? Obviously all top priority projects can not be completed at the same time. Examine what your company’s bandwidth is at the current time. Do you have the capacity to take on several large projects at one time or should you choose one large and several small projects? The number and skill level of your employees will help make these determinations. Some businesses like to get larger projects out of the way to make it easier on team members with smaller projects later, while other companies like to clear out the smaller projects to make way for the heavier projects. Be sure not to stack too many one on top of the other as bandwidth may allow for it but company morale may plummet.
Last March, your top priority may not have been determining how all your team members could safely connect to work remotely. By mid-March our nation was facing a global health crisis that shuttered businesses and required employees that could work from home, do so. Keep that level of flexibility in mind when creating your IT project priority list. Things could change at a moment's notice. One day it's a pandemic, the next it may be a computer virus that has you rethinking your software and security practices. Allow for some movement in your project list that allows for team members to revisit the plan and change it as needed. As a project leader, you can either bend or break. Signs of a great project leader are that you can shift directions quickly when necessary. Our team at Spectra can help you determine when those shifts may be needed depending on what is going on in your industry or across the globe.
Making Your Priority Plan a Reality
Now that your team has met and created a purposeful list that has taken value, urgency, bandwidth, and your long/short term goals into account, you will want to start making your plan come to fruition. Work closely with your IT specialist throughout this process so that a timeline can be hashed out that works for you and all the members of your team. For example, you may want to steer clear of weeks when many team members have vacations planned or holidays coming up. Your IT specialist or IT management company can work closely with you on how to prepare internally for each step of the projects including employee training that may be needed or access to the system without having employees on it. While many projects take time to plan and execute, having an experienced IT team on your side can help the projects go seamlessly and avoid any complications as the project rolls out. One of our specialties here at Spectra Networks is helping our clients understand the scope and sequence of projects and how they could impact both consumers and employees. We ensure that we will explain the process and help everyone stay on a timeline that can keep the project moving along.
The Bottom Line
Prioritizing your company’s IT projects is not easy or quick. It, however, is an important step towards ensuring that IT teams are successful. Taking the time to go through this prioritization process can help provide the team with the necessary information to prioritize tasks based upon urgency, value to the business, and bandwidth. Ultimately, it ensures that the team is taking on the most important projects first. Further, it helps establish organization-wide communication, clear expectations, and transparency about how projects are ranked.