Why Your business needs to perform an annual technology assessment
Managing a business requires remaining current with a number of ever evolving and often competing requirements. Firms must track changes affecting human resources and labor practices, maintain pace with tax law updates and comply with new regulations while also accommodating industry trends and developments. Unfortunately, properly tracking and administering information technology (IT) systems and infrastructure can be easily lost in the ensuing shuffle, resulting in significant operational issues.
Annual technology assessments provide an effective and continually recurring method for ensuring a business’ technical platforms and infrastructure aren’t overlooked and permitted to introduce risks, rob efficiencies and productivity due to obsolescence and increase the likelihood of unplanned outages and disruptions. Annual technology audits can also confirm disaster preparedness and explore whether changes throughout the past year—including but not limited to opening or closing sites and adding or decreasing headcount—necessitate updating or adjusting any IT strategies. Such a yearly review of the organization’s technological footprint and operations is especially important for firms that do not regularly conduct thorough quarterly reviews.
Other benefits accrue, too, when working to ensure an organization maximizes its technology investments, as a proper annual assessment does. A Deloitte study confirmed that the better a small business wields technology, the better it performs. Boosting digital engagement, the study observed, helps small businesses earn more per employee, increase revenue and drive employment growth, among other advantages.
What is an Annual Technology Assessment?
Known as annual technology assessments, yearly infrastructure reviews or even annual technology business reviews, a yearly technology assessment involves a business’ technical staff and/or IT partner reviewing the operation’s current software, hardware, configurations and services and preparing comprehensive reports and related information summarizing the status of all key systems and components. Effective technology assessments should also include corresponding guidance and recommendations as to how best to proceed regarding any best-practices gaps or other issues—including cybersecurity vulnerabilities—the assessment uncovers.
Once reports and guidance are prepared, the organization’s in-house IT staff and any technology partner—including a managed service provider (MSP) or IT consultant that assists maintaining the company’s technical operations—should meet with the business’ representatives to review the current state of the IT infrastructure powering the firm’s operations, any identified risks or vulnerabilities, the need for any upgrades or updates and other recommendations for improvement, enhancement or modernization. Any new regulatory or industry changes that require adjusting IT operations should also be discussed. Then, plans should be formalized for following up, including which parties are responsible for developing or performing which actions and when.
Which Representatives Should Attend An Annual Technology Assessment Meeting?
To ensure relevant and accurate information is presented and effective recommendations are made as part of an annual technology assessment, the organization’s internal technical staff director or manager should attend, as well as the business’ owners or an operating partner. Representatives of any outside technology consulting firm, including an MSP or IT consultant account executive, should also attend and provide input throughout the session.
Depending upon the situation, there are several other justified attendees that might prove appropriate to include. Firms that develop software should include an in-house developer representative (or the outsourced equivalent), for example. Other potential stakeholders that should receive the opportunity to review the presented reports and recommendations and provide feedback include key customer service, marketing, production, finance and other personnel that depend upon specific technologies to perform and fulfill critical professional or operational responsibilities.
What Elements Should Be Included Within an Annual Technology Assessment?
Businesses should schedule annual technology assessments using preset start and end times. The event coordinator should prepare an agenda for each attendee in advance. Respecting everyone’s time, the meeting should start and end on time, with follow up meetings possible for specific representatives to address specific initiatives, if necessary.
The yearly technology assessment itself should review multiple elements, including all the following:
- Progress completed for any significant milestones set the previous year
- An overview report describing how each IT system and solution directly supports a required business objective or necessary function
- The key performance metrics (KPIs) used to track and measure IT performance and corresponding trends
- A summary report comparing the organization’s actual usage versus contracted service limits if using an outside IT consultant or MSP
- A detailed report stating the company’s return on investment (ROI) for any outsourced IT services
- A detailed report stating the company’s ROI for any in-house managed IT services and investments
- A comprehensive asset lifecycle report listing all active applications, network equipment, workstations, laptops, servers and corresponding recommendations and guidance
- A complete status list of contracted cloud, software and service solution contracts and recommendations
- A comprehensive cybersecurity evaluation and corresponding recommendations
- An industry and/or government and regulatory agency compliance requirement evaluation and corresponding recommendations
- A summary analysis and review for any open and/or incomplete projects
- An executive review of current IT policies and procedures matched to corresponding business needs and recent changes to confirm no changes or adjustments are required
- A determination describing whether the current business continuity and disaster recovery plan sufficiently meets the business’ needs and requirements and any corresponding recommendations
- A summary overview comparing the business’ IT performance versus other comparable organizations, if the firm uses an outside IT services partner
To prove most effective, an annual technology review should include an open and frank discussion comparing executives’ expectations versus actual demonstrated IT capabilities and performance. The meeting should also set specific goals—with corresponding budgets, deadlines and stakeholders—individually for any new actions needed to address deficiencies or gaps and for any new initiatives necessary to meet new business challenges or opportunities.
Understandably, these are a lot of elements to track and remember. Louisville Geek subsequently created an Annual Technology Assessment that organizations are welcome to use to help plan and guide their own yearly reviews.
During an annual review, guidance from multiple sources suggests it’s a mistake to focus on one single failure or issue that may have occurred during the past year. Instead, it often proves most constructive to review the standards and performance demonstrated consistently throughout the year. That’s not to say negative events should be overlooked when performing an annual technology review. Of course not. But anomalies should be viewed as just that: a single, isolated occurrence.
Trends, though, are another matter. Peaks and valleys become easier to track when monitored and are just one factor justifying the importance of executives’ agreeing on important KPIs to be tracked using a dashboard or scorecard. Monitoring those key measurements throughout the year provides a constructive method for maintaining accountability and objectively measuring problems when they arise, among other benefits.
Performed properly, annual technology reviews permit business stakeholders to forge stronger and more cooperative relationships with IT staff and representatives. These continually recurring meetings also assist surfacing potentially unknown issues and properly setting resulting priorities and expectations. The yearly audits can also help organizations build trust between departments and smooth potentially competing objectives, while continually confirming operations, production, cybersecurity, compliance and disaster preparedness requirements continue to be met as the business needs.
Need Help Preparing an Annual Technology Assessment?
If you’re having trouble planning or completing a yearly technology review within your business and seek assistance, contact Louisville Geek at 502-897-7577 or by emailing [email protected]. Consider downloading and using the free Louisville Geek Annual Technology Assessment, too.
Whether Louisville Geek or someone else performs the assessment or helps stakeholders understand the results and weigh recommendations, Louisville Geek regularly assists customers in responding to industry changes, technology challenges and the inevitable need to keep pace with software and hardware updates as contract and equipment lifecycles dictate.