If your 2015 was anything like ours, it was fast paced! With the support of customers, referral partners, a great team, a good technology plan and a hot economy we were able to more than double our business last year. Thanks everyone!

But with that growth, we experienced challenges that we normally coach others through, we outgrew some of our technology systems! So as the year ended, we went through a series of meetings and conversations to plan for the year ahead and gather a technology plan. This blog is intended to provide some steps for readers to leverage their teams and resources to make smart, informed decisions.

Step One:

Plan on spending more money. The facts are telling, small and midsize businesses spend on average 4-6% of revenue on technology. This figure includes all spending: internet, software, phones, computers, hardware, services etc. According to CIO magazine, this increases somewhere between .2-.5% per year on average. Ten years ago, technology was still viewed as a necessary evil by most companies. Nowadays, this attitude is a tell-tale sign that a business is shrinking and withering. The best companies in every industry leverage technology as a competitive advantage to look better, work smarter not harder and empower better communication.

Step Two:

Focus on the practical first, not necessarily what helps you to sell your widget. There are always hot technologies out there that can catch your eye. Internet of Things is a very hot topic. There are myriad of Software as a Service solutions to help companies tackle everything from compliance to inventory. It is very easy to get seduced into thinking that if you have new marketing software, or a new database to for inventory it will allow you to sell more.

We find that this is only true if the basic, fundamental infrastructure that underpins the business is very sound. This infrastructure includes the servers, firewall, switches, computers and current software applications. Don’t spend the budget on software and leave employees suffering on old workstations, you will spend the money anyways so do it early.

If there is a slick software or solution you have your eye on, figure out where there are infrastructural deficiencies and focus on those in Q1 and Q2.

Step Three:

Break the planned upgrades into quarters and set milestones. Here at Upward we have a roadmap process that helps us to give clients a clear budget a milestones for each quarter of the year. This can be easily created even without a template. This technology plan can be a document you revisit each time someone needs a new computer or brings a shiny new software to your desk.

Make your IT vendor accountable to this timetable and ask for a quarterly update on progress. If your vendor doesn’t seem to have a formalized process or insight for this, we would recommend finding a vendor who does.