Let’s face it. There are not too many of us that can afford to have a full time IT staff. We have to divide the time up among many competing interests. Unless IT is our full-time gig, we have to keep a business running. Most of us realize that IT is a big part of our business success and we have to keep up with it. I am sure you want to have a feature-rich, well maintained and secure IT infrastructure. The problem is, how do you prioritize what you do with the little bit of time and resources that you can devote? I am going to take you on a short journey through each of these and try to give you a method to accomplish the best value from each.
Rule #1: You cannot do it all
The sooner you realize this the better. We all want to be able to do everything well. The sad truth is that if you try to do everything, you will do none of it well. You have to come up with a strategy and a set of priorities that will accomplish your business goals. Notice that I said “business goals” not IT goals. Any IT related goal that you have should be directly linked to a business goal. Don’t do IT for the sake of IT. We are in business to succeed and make money, not to feed the IT industry. This is why having well defined business goals is so critical in having a successful IT strategy.
Now that we know we cannot do everything, what are the most important areas to focus our IT efforts? There are three areas that most experts agree need to be addressed. They are, features, maintenance and security. Which you focus on at any one time will be determined on where you are at in your system lifecycle. I am going to address each one in the “Bob Creigh Order of Precedent”.
Security is an ongoing initiative. You cannot turn your back on this one for even a moment. It is kind of like a toddler. the minute you take your eyes off of it, the lamps are tipped over and the cat is on fire. The good thing is, once you get a secure and stable platform, keeping it that way doesn’t require that much effort. You just have to remember to check up on it. Setup your system with all the proper security measures in place and the rest is just maintenance.
Maintenance is the teenager of our strategy. You don’t have to watch it every second but you have to provide is structure and guidelines. The minute you let it stray from the plan and the liquor cabinet is empty and the car is banged up. Some basic care and feeding of your IT infrastructure and both maintenance and security are set. Regular backups as well as keeping your systems updated and patched will keep everyone happy. Ignore it and you are bailing your baby out of jail. The old saying “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” certainly applies.
Features are our friends. Everyone likes devoting time to spend with them but don’t ignore the family in doing so. Schedule time to add or modify features. You only do this when you have the time, resources and funding to do it right. Do not compromise security to get new features. I always recommend that you look over your business goals and see what gaps you need to fill with IT to meet those goals. Then take a harsh look at what you can accomplish in a reasonable time.
You need a balance
The heading says it all. You have to have a balance. Spend the necessary time on security and maintenance and the focus the remaining IT time on new features and capabilities. How much time is required for each? That depends on your system. Most simple websites and small business IT systems require very little time securing and maintaining. An hour a week is probably adequate so long as you have a good schedule. As soon as you let it go, the time to catch up dramatically increases.
The key to all of this is to have a balanced approach. divide your time and resources up accordingly so that you are constantly moving toward your goals. Don’t stray too far from the plan and you won’t get lost in the IT woods. Don’t get drawn in by the next shiny thing. It is way too easy to do. I know, I suffer from that all the time. IT moves so fast and new things come out all the time. If you see something you like, write it down and look at it next time you are looking at doing a system update. Keep your eye on the prize and that prize is success for your business. Don’t do things just because they are cool. Do things because they can help your bottom line.