Implementation Best Practices

Are You Taking a SMART Approach to IT?

Even “smart” IT consultants can fail to take a SMART approach to IT. While most consultants approach their work linearly, (giving each project a beginning, middle, and end), the 5Q SMART approach is a cycle. Because the needs of organizations constantly shift and change, an IT team must continuously measure, adjust, and realign its services to meets those evolving needs.

The 5Q SMART approach asks the consultant to look at the business holistically, rather than as a series of individual pain points. This enables business leaders to plan a comprehensive roadmap where technology drives success, rather sitting stagnant and draining resources.

So, what is SMART and how can IT staff adopt this approach?

What Does SMART Really Mean?

The SMART methodology is a cyclical approach, where together, the consultant and the business engage in an ongoing process of:

  • Support
  • Measure
  • Assess
  • Roadmap
  • Transform

The first stage of a new SMART cycle begins with assessing the current landscape. From there, a roadmap is created, technology is transformed, ongoing support is provided, and success is measured. The cycle continues throughout the partnership, as the effectiveness of systems and processes must constantly be evaluated and adjusted when necessary to ensure that technology is truly a driver of business success.

Assess the IT Landscape

This involves a thorough internal review of the organization’s current IT landscape. However, an IT strategy needs a business strategy, so leaders will need to be able to identify their organization’s goals before the SMART cycle can begin.

Once the leadership team has defined the business strategy, IT leaders should review it. The IT team cannot evolve to drive success without understanding how its members fit into the overarching company goals.

Once everyone is on board with the company strategy, the SMART consultant will work closely with leaders to catalog all technology systems and classify them into one of two groups: value-added services that drive the business goals and utility services that are necessary for operations, but do not add value.

This assessment gives the organization a clear picture of where and how they are spend their IT budget and resources, and will prepare them to shift their focus away from IT as just a cost center and move it towards a strategic function.

Create a Roadmap For Success

Once the assessment has been completed, the leadership staff can use the information gained there in the second action in the SMART cycle: building a roadmap to plan the organization’s strategic shift. To do this, the leadership staff must begin by freeing up resources. This happens through an analysis of the utility services classified in the Assessment phase. Some of those services may be outsourced or replaced with an off-the-shelf solution, or leadership staff might opt for a hybrid approach.

From there, it’s time to plan for the value-adding services, by evaluating their merits and drawbacks and outlining the ideal solutions to update or replace legacy systems. Each proposed solution should clearly map back to the overarching goals of the business that were gathered in the Assessment phase

The roadmap outlines precisely how the organization will reach its goals through technology and will outline a methodology to select, manage, measure, and grow the strategically-aligned technology solutions over time. Consider the roadmap a living document that can and will change as the needs of the business change.

Transform Technology: Make the Necessary Changes

With the roadmap in place, the transformation process of the SMART cycle can begin. This will look different for every organization. Some may take a “Big Bang” approach, where they look at their roadmap and implement sweeping changes to all systems. However, most choose to approach change in small increments, overhauling one system or service at a time.

Crucially, leadership must understand the organization’s capacity to handle change before the Transformation phase begins. For this phase to be effective, the workforce must buy in to the changes, and the organization must be able to absorb the changes well; hence, incremental changes usually work best. The SMART consultant will know which types of questions to ask to get a feel for the organization’s change management capabilities and how to prioritize the order in which changes are implemented. No two organizations will take on transformation in the same way, and most will have to adapt their processes.

Provide Ongoing Support

In a linear approach to consulting, an IT firm may end its engagement with the client after implementation. Clients often make the mistake of assuming that ongoing support is included in their consulting agreement, only to find out the truth when something goes wrong with their systems.

Ongoing support is an integral part of the SMART cycle and ensures that organizations can continue to focus on their business strategy, rather than overwhelming their internal IT resources to handle issues if they arise. The consultant takes on the role of customer advocate, supporting them through any issues that may crop up and when necessary, dealing directly with vendors.

Measure Results: How to Determine Success

When it comes to IT consulting, some firms do not help the client measure success; they simply make and execute recommendations. Without guidance and support, however, clients have difficulty choosing what to measure, how to measure it, and whether or not their results signal success.

Measuring success is a critical piece of the SMART cycle, however. Without measuring, it is impossible to know whether or not technology actually helps the company achieve its goals. Success will look different for every organization; their goals and KPIs will be unique. Determining those details can take time, but a SMART consultant already knows from the Assessment what to measure – and can adapt the measuring process as needed when the goals of the organization shift.

The Heart of a SMART Approach

The core of a SMART approach to IT is a business value analysis. Learning how your current technology maps to the overall corporate strategy and starting the process of alignment will prove invaluable to the company’s bottom line. Continuously measuring and evaluating the resulting IT strategy will ensure that alignment is maintained, even as the needs of an organization shift and change over time. The end result will be long-term solutions and strategic benefits that the entire company will share.