When I was studying for my A levels, my tutor installed the following mantra in me: “If you fail to prepare, then prepare to fail.” While at the time my teacher was speaking in relation to my exams, I find this phrase has even more relevance when it comes to business.

Woolworths, Blockbusters, BHS; remember these names? Here are 3 key examples of big companies who failed to prepare, and then subsequently failed. These companies failed to innovate, react quickly and understand the ever-changing needs of their customers, often making poor decisions along the way.

Today’s market moves so fast, companies must match its pace in order to succeed. How do companies strategise growth and transformation, while running the business at the same time, under these market conditions? Xceed Group recently engaged with an SME in the insurance industry attempting not only this, but to grow exponentially over the next 5 years. Such huge changes cannot be undertaken lightly, and so they called on our expertise to help them to construct an IT strategy that best fits their future needs.

Now I stand in my tutor’s shoes providing three pieces of advice this company how to plan for the future and not end up on the failure list:

1. Put IT where it belongs- at the heart of the business

Gone are the days when a strong IT department could be considered a “nice-to-have”. Businesses that want to stay relevant in today’s market need to ensure that their IT departments have robust processes in place and a secure environment for data. When companies operate from an unstable IT platform, at some point revenues WILL be impacted. Whether that is due to data loss, downtime impacting productivity or insufficient systems to manage processes, all can impact the bottom line. Having a resilient IT department in place can mitigate these risks. Research reported in Forbes last year found that “Firms with high-performing IT organisations are twice as likely to exceed their profitability, market share and productivity goals.”

Small organisations often underinvest in their IT departments, preferring to invest in their core business activities instead. Unfortunately this often leads to IT operations not using best practice techniques. Small companies can be lean on employee numbers, and often some may not have an IT function at all. This leaves businesses vulnerable when issues occur.

During the first engagement with this company, Xceed Group began its discovery process on site, the following questions were immediately asked;

  • What do they have; how many servers, applications, datacentres, etc.?
  • What are the interdependencies of all those items?
  • Who is in charge of the many areas of this estate?

By answering these questions, we were able to start building a strategy to meet their organisational goals.

2. Speculate to accumulate

After carrying out the analysis, Xceed Group recommended an IT strategy to enable the company to achieve their aggressive growth plan. One of the best ways to manage aggressive growth is by migrating to the cloud. A company with ambitious plans for growth needs to ensure that their IT department has the capability and flexibility to grow on demand – and that is what cloud does best.

It is important for companies to choose carefully what to move to the cloud, how to move it, and what type of platform to move it to (Iaas, PaaS or SaaS to name a few). Adopting a lock-stock, lift and shift approach to the cloud can lead to unnecessary cost and risk. If companies get this right, they not only have the opportunity to maximise potential savings, but can free up resources for other activities and increase the responsiveness and agility of their IT services.

In recent years the cloud market has exploded, with Google, Amazon and Microsoft as well as many, many other smaller players, unleashing a torrent of secure, affordable, scalable cloud offerings. With so much choice and competition in the market, there has never been a better time for businesses to consider moving to the cloud.

With these considerations in mind, Xceed Group sought to answer the following questions for the customer;

  • What should they manage in house, and what should go to the cloud?
  • Where can they makes savings?
  • Where should they make investments?
  • What can we get rid of?
  • What aspect of the service will the in house team be responsible for post migration?

3. Cloud is for everyone not everything!

While an effective solution for many IT challenges, a move to the cloud will not solve everything. Depending on which type of cloud solution is chosen, in most situations the IT department will still retain responsibility for some part of the IT service. Whether that’s just for the data, or the hardware in lower levels of the technology stack.

Contrary to the belief of some, migrating to the cloud will not cause the extinction of IT departments in smaller companies. Instead, there is a renewed focus on consolidating sprawling IT teams into focused agile response units, which are better equipped to deal with rapidly changing business needs. Moving to the cloud in conjunction with making IT part of the business strategy is a highly recommended strategy that many businesses should consider in 2016.

So, there are my three pieces of advice on how businesses can use IT to stay ahead during these fast moving times, and not end up on the rubbish heap, like so many. If you would like a cloud assessment on your IT estate please contact us.