If your company has a long history, stretching back to the pre-digital age, it will have undergone significant changes at several key stages. Production methods will have altered. There will have been increasing choice of media through which to promote the business.
And of course, came the day, the computers arrived. After that the systems became part of what was to become ‘IT’.
Even if your business has a shorter time line, and it came into existence after the digital revolution, the chances are that the systems that were installed originally are not the ones to take you too much further into the future.
But my point here is not that IT systems need to be updated for the sake of it. It’s not a question of medium overtaking message. The big question is ‘where do you want your business to go?’
If the answer reveals a new direction, then the question of the IT, and systems, comes into focus.
If the technology in your business was specified and installed correctly it will be appropriate to what you do - now. That doesn’t mean that it will be up to the job you want to do - in the future.
Consider this scenario. Your company has an established brand name and positive image. Your market research reveals that an opportunity exists in a different market sector to your usual sphere of operations. Let’s say that your typically b2b product, it could be clothing, footwear, or some technology for instance, may, research shows, have a consumer appeal.
You’re confident that your brand name will work in the consumer market. (It can happen. Think CAT. Would you have imagined an American engineering equipment firm producing fashion boots?)
The deeper you dig (Sorry! That wasn’t a CAT reference!) the more you find that the potential revenue from the new market is high. So you go ahead.
And then it all fails. Because the systems you have in place are not geared up to online consumer orders. Your production methods could handle bigger volume, in theory, but not without adjustments. Which you didn’t make.
That scenario is not unprecedented. It’s avoidable though. Addressing the issues not as specifically ‘IT’ matters, but planning strategically to meet the changes necessary to handle the diversification, and embracing the technology needed as part of that process is the way to plan.
The error is in assuming that the IT you have for what you’re doing is the IT you need for what you want to do next.