Your Technology Roadmap and the Role of the CIO

By: | Category: Cloud Computing, CRM, Employee Experience, ERP, IT / Infrastructure

While leadership within many small to mid-sized businesses (SMBs) today demonstrate extensive business experience, they can lack the IT experience needed to align technology decisions with business strategies and goals. 

Such a scenario is understandable. These smaller companies may have started without any IT employees – especially if the business isn’t focused on technology – and may have only added technical headcount as the company began to grow. It’s also extremely common: Today, 43% of SMBs don’t have one full-time IT employee or equivalent in-house.1 

Yet those SMBs that do have a chief information officer (CIO) or another senior IT leader, can benefit from a close collaboration with these types of IT executives to develop an effective technology roadmap. Such a close working relationship helps SMBs create a plan that is realistic, focused on the right objectives, and aligned with top business priorities. 

Additionally, the resulting plan may help the company use technology to achieve results in terms of productivity, scalability, and profitability, while avoiding surprising costs and other potential obstacles down the road. 

IT Architecture Maps vs Technology Roadmaps

While we introduced the concept of technology roadmaps in our first article in this series, it may be worth a quick reminder that a technology roadmap is not the same thing as an IT architecture map. While they sound similar, they are two different things and serve two different purposes. 

A close working relationship with a Fractional CIO or IT expert helps SMBs create a plan that is realistic, focused on the right objectives, and aligned with top business priorities.”

An IT architecture map depicts a company’s IT assets and infrastructure, including systems, applications, networks, databases, hardware devices, and more. In this way, an architecture map is similar to a blueprint for a house that shows room dimensions, foundation details, elevations, framing specifications, and other details.  

A technology roadmap is more like a homeowner’s ongoing plan for improving the house over time. Instead of home construction projects like replacing a leaky roof or updating an outdated kitchen, a technology roadmap may focus on implementing a next-generation enterprise resource planning (ERP) or customer relationship management (CRM) solution, as examples of how technology can support the business.  

Like homeowners, few SMBs have the luxury of tackling all of these projects at once. This means that the technology roadmap should break projects into realistic timeframes that reflect the company’s priorities, goals, budget, and other considerations.  

This is why it’s so important to work with Fractional CIOs, in-house CIOs or experienced IT staff to develop the best technology roadmap possible. 

To learn more about technology roadmaps and how your organization can benefit from them, download our white paper, “A Comprehensive Technology Roadmap Can Deliver a New Competitive Advantage for Today’s SMBs.”

The CIO: Your Technology Roadmap Guide

When engaging with a CIO or similar role, there are best practices to maximize your relationship to ensure your technology roadmap makes an impact on the organization. Here are five best practices: 

  1. Develop a baseline understanding of current infrastructure: Any good roadmap includes a starting point. The same is true for a technology roadmap, especially if it’s the first time the company has developed one. In working with IT, a company’s leadership can assess the current infrastructure and begin to think about what’s working well, what’s not, and where there may be new opportunities for different technology investments. 
  2. Include the CIO in business strategy planning: For many SMBs, IT resources play a supporting role, such as making sure applications are up and running, responding to employee questions, or provisioning new hires. While this is an important and valuable role, it is not a strategic role and doesn’t allow IT to have a seat at the table.  Instead, SMBs should elevate the role and involve the CIO or senior IT staff as part of the strategic planning process. When they understand the overall business goals and strategies, they can offer advice on how technology can create operational efficiency and drive business growth. They can also offer insights into new technology trends that may further influence future decisions. 
  3. Build a foundational approach: CIOs will be able to offer a look at how technology may affect the entire business and should look to develop a technology roadmap that starts with the right foundation and then build from there.  For example, we recommend that any SMB start with cybersecurity and make sure improving defenses and minimizing risk is a top priority for any technology. From there, SMBs can build out their plan to include productivity tools, core business applications, department-specific applications, and supporting infrastructure. Final elements can include brand experience, automation, and business insights and analytics.  
  4. Establish regular communications and check-ins: A technology roadmap is never finished. Instead, it should be reviewed regularly, such as monthly check-ins or quarterly business reviews. Committing to these milestone events and consistently staying in touch sends the message that the roadmap is a strategic business tool that everyone needs to embrace for business success. 
  5. Foster a culture of learning and innovation: While it’s true that many SMBs are slow to adopt new technologies, they should encourage experimentation and the use of new or emerging technologies like Robotic Process Automation (RPA). CIOs can play an important role in identifying appropriate technologies, evaluating their impact on the business, and using the roadmap to guide the organization in implementing more innovative solutions. 

For some SMBs, “innovation” may mean adding a new communications system or employee productivity platform to improve employees’ daily work. For others, it may look to doing more with machine learning or AI for more advanced data analytics and insights. No matter where they stand now, the key is to continue to use modern technology in a way to support business goals. 

Collaboration Pays Dividends

In the past, many SMBs may have delayed technology investments or made reactive decisions that may not have been the perfect fit for their long-term objectives. Yet through close collaboration with the CIO or IT leader, these organizations can develop much more effective technology roadmaps that are better aligned with business objectives for a significant strategic impact.   

Next Steps 

To learn more, download our complete white paper, “A Comprehensive Technology Roadmap Can Deliver a New Competitive Advantage for Today’s SMBs.”