7 Critical Areas for Your Information Technology Annual Review

As we reach the end of another calendar year, we look ahead to new goals, updated budgets & forecasts, and expanding challenges with technology. Small and midsize businesses have more options than ever before, making what used to be impossible not only possible, but likely. Cloud computing? Standard. Microservices? Easily added. Data lakes? Sign up. Closing out the year affords the chance to see what went right, what went wrong, and what to do next. We wanted to share our insights to help you. Here are 6 critical areas for your information technology annual review.

As you look back, you’ll want to take different perspectives. Ask for feedback directly from different members of your team, from the front line to the C suite. IT is DNA in modern business, so what works for one needs to work for all. Good ideas or helpful feedback can come from anywhere.

1. Goals

At the end of last year or the beginning of this one, you probably set goals. What did you accomplish? What did you miss? Keep score on how much progress you made, and evaluate your goal setting. Were the goals realistic? Too easy or too hard? Well aligned to your business? If goals are your roadmap, then you need to make them count. If last year’s goals sucked, improve them for next year.

2. Investments

Your business capital shouldn’t be wasted on frivolous IT projects. As essential as it is, technology can be a quagmire of expense. Invest wisely, limit ‘expenses’. So where did you invest (think of that as futureproofing your business, not filling potholes)? Where do you need to invest next? What’s on the horizon.

3. Expenses

Were you on budget? (stop laughing!) Yes, forecasting is difficult, but budgets are at least useful as a mental constraint. Guilt FTW! Where did you spend the most money? Where are you hemoragging money? Where did you spend the most time? Consider the overall use of resources (money and people). And when you have a feel for that, it’s time to look at…

4. Return on Investment

ROI is the ultimate scorecard. Before you implement ideas, you should consider what done looks like and what the impact will be on the business. Are your expenses justified? For every dollar invested/spent, it should result in more revenue, lower expense, lower risk, or better customer experience. From last year’s investment, what would you adjust (to stop bleeding or fuel growth)?

5. Platforms

After a couple of decades in the technology space, we know a thing or two about platform obsolescence. We’ve seen the ebb and flow of tech flavors — Ruby on Rails, anyone? — and it’s sunset one that be sunsetted. So in your annual review, you may want to look at:

  • What is the overall viability of your tech stack first (foundation)?
  • Are your platforms functioning well (reliability)?
  • Are your platforms delivering a good customer experience (performance)?
  • Are your platforms aging well (sustainable)?

Once you’ve considered the core of your platform, you may want to decide – are there workloads or systems to retire? rehost? replatform?

6. Staffing

Do you have the right people working on those goals? Do you have idle hands? What skills are missing to help you reach goals faster? If you have a big backlog that never seems to change, you may be missing skills or organization. It may be time to hire, train, or replace people. How are your outside vendor relationships working? Are they helping you or draining your budget? Consider having a conversation — even a difficult one — to make it work better or make changes.

7. Process

As a small business, we’re a process-first organization. If we were an American football team, we’d want to be the New England Patriots — a system with replacement parts that can adapt to outside conditions. Good processes work with less talent and thrive with great talent. Good source code control? Check. Development velocity with a solid ticketing system? Yes, please. Documentation included when you deliver solutions? Sweet! Also, think about the hard stuff that gets left behind. Is your security policy followed and working? Have you tested your disaster recovery system? Processes and verified processes reduce risk and enhance performance.

Whether you do your own IT review or have a team manage it, we hope that these insights help guide your plan for the coming year. If you’re looking to get started on an annual review process and need some guidance, we can provide useful advice tailored specifically to your needs so that next year is successful. What are some of your most pressing information technology challenges for next year and how do they compare to this one? Have any other questions on this topic that weren’t covered here? Let us know! And let us know what other topics we missed by commenting below.

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