Technology strategic planning: Why bother?

With the constant evolution of technology, is it worthwhile to build a long-term strategic plan? And with the disruptive nature of technology is it even possible to map what might be available in three, five or ten years? Why bother? Isn’t it just as good, if not safer to stay the course and remain a fast follower than risk failure as a leader? All are good questions that I’ve been asked by my peers, and in short the answers are yes, yes, and no. Let me try to clarify in case my answers where a tad vague.

Disruptive technologies tend to get the most attention leading people to believe that technology evolution is more chaotic than it actually is. In reality, technology trends evolve in a rapid but predictable fashion. Moore’s law, along with the technology measures associated with it, have been successfully predicting hardware evolution since 1965. E-mail has been in use for several years and perhaps someday it will be replaced, but the transition won’t be overnight. Core technology is just that: dependable and predictable. None the less, a technology strategic plan should have less to do with the tools and more to do with the wants and needs of the business.

Technology is about the use of knowledge and tools to achieve a positive end result. A technology strategic plan should be about identifying and defining possible process enhancements that can be achieved over a three, five or ten year period. The specifics of how you plan to create these enhancements are less important that understanding the direction and goals of the business. Understanding your future wants and needs allows you to identify technology that will meet those needs as it emerges. Implementing emerging technologies gives you an advantage over competitors raising profits and reducing costs.

Being an early adopter might create some minor pain, but often than not it opens the door for significant cost-savings and press opportunities. Leaders break into the market gaining critical mass while followers normally pick-up the stragglers. Followers often pay for competitors success in both increased product and lost opportunity costs. If you have a plan and maintain your view of the market, it’s possible to maintain progress toward your goals while the technology evolves.

A technology strategic plan makes sense and doesn’t need to be difficult. Simply documenting process inefficiencies and future needs can help build a basic foundation. Maintaining awareness of needs and emerging solutions can create an iterative implementation process, mitigating risks and enhancing rewards. Who knows? With a documented plan you may soon realize that your five-year goals are actually three-year realities.