What is an IT Roadmap? And why does my business need one? Well, the simple answer is that it’s a plan. A plan of how you intend to manage your IT Systems over the coming years. A plan of how much you intend to spend on IT Systems and security over the coming years. In ESP’s case, we use a 4-year roadmap that’s reviewed every 6 months. The roadmap becomes an agreement, between you, the customer, and your IT Provider, as to how the IT Systems are going to develop within your business over the coming 4-year period. It sets out some standard items, such as contract renewal dates, as well as replacement cycles for equipment such as PCs and Laptops. It’s essentially a documented plan, based on best-practices for businesses, when it comes to their IT Systems.
Why does my business need an IT Roadmap?
Let’s flip it on it’s head – what happens if your business DOESN’T have an IT Roadmap? Much like anything in life, if you fail to plan, your plan will fail! Your IT Roadmap is a plan of how you are going to approach making sure your business has good IT Systems, that don’t hold the business back in terms of equipment and software, but also security (security can cost a lot of time and money if not done correctly). Presumably, if you are reading this article, then you are somewhat responsible for the IT Systems and Spending within your business.
If you are accountable, and have to report to someone more senior within your business, then you should definitely try to plan everything as best you can. If you don’t, you run the risk that you need to spend money on IT Systems, but no budgets are available because the finance team haven’t allocated the correct (or even any) money to ensure that you can keep on top of the business IT requirements.
With IT, things WILL break down unexpectedly, if they haven’t been properly maintained and replaced on the correct schedules. When this happens, and you need money to solve the problem, if you haven’t given the powers that be, the heads up to plan for that eventuality, it will be you that looks the fool. If you have put forwards a plan (or a Roadmap) and the Finance or Senior Team have decided not to take on that plan, it will be them that looks like the fool when something goes wrong. In other words, you are covering your own ass!
Whoever is at fault, the business will suffer, either with one person being out of action with a lack of kit or more likely, something more serious will go wrong, such as a server that’s been in production for too long. In that eventuality, it could be the entire business that can’t operate for an extended period of time.
OK, so I want a Roadmap, what do I need to think about?
The first thing you need to do, is think about some over-arching policies that your Roadmap needs to adhere to.
Best practice, for IT hardware equipment is that it is replaced every 4 years. Most businesses account for depreciation of IT equipment as a 4 year depreciation period – meaning that the equipment is worth nothing on your balance sheet at the end of 4 years. So the best advice we can give is that your replacement schedules should be set at 4 years. HOWEVER, it’s unrealistic to expect that EVERY business can afford to replace ALL of it’s IT Equipment every 4 years. So if it’s not possible to do that in your business, then think about what is possible. Is 5 years achievable for example?
Best practice as far as IT Security is concerned is to spend as much as your business can afford on IT Security, to try to ensure that you’ve done the best that you can afford, to protect your business from Cyber Attacks and more importantly, personal data loss.
IT services, when outsourcing, cost money – usually in the form of an IT Support Contract. So within your Roadmap, you need to consider the amounts you might need to spend on external labour. You might also need to consider Software Development costs if your business is changing a lot, then your software will need to too.
Inflation is high at the moment. You need to take this into account when budgeting. Don’t budget for the same cost next year as this year, as it won’t spread! Instead, add around 10% per year onto your costs, to ensure the plan is as accurate as it can be.
OK, so I’ve decided on my rules (policies), what’s next?
You can attack your written plan in a number of different ways. However, our recommendation is always to tackle End User Equipment first as it’s the most likely equipment to go wrong. Depending on the size of your business, that might seem like a daunting task, but it needn’t be.
Whatever the size of your business, you need to account for replacement of 25% of your end user stock, each year. So if you had 40 machines, you need to allocate a budget to replace 10 machines each year. If you’ve only got 6, the number is 1.5, so aim for 2 and you’ll always be ahead of the curve. Once you know how many you need to handle annually, it’s easy to break it down into a monthly or quarterly plan, that means that you are constantly bringing new stock into your business that enables your IT hardware to be constantly improving and keeping up with the latest and greatest software. You should be able to speak with your existing IT Provider or supplier to make a plan as to how you’re going to handle it.
Can they automatically offer you a quotation every month for example, for the devices that you need to change? Or let’s say you had 48 devices, could their admin team send you over a quote for 1 device every month, that you immediately accept? Think about how you might want to handle that process and ask your supply chain to help. If you get a quote for 1 device, this should allow you to add it into your plan at the intervals you’ve decided on.
Are there other more important bits?
Yes! Especially if you have other servers, or mission critical equipment (Such as Network Storage Devices (NAS or SAN)) in play. They should absolutely be the next item to add into your plan. The last thing you want to do is to keep your server running longer than it should be. It’s a total recipe for disaster. If your server breaks down, even for a few hours, it can cause absolute mayhem within your business, with no-one able to do any work. Imagine how much every hour is costing the business if that’s the case!
So look back in your invoices, when did your Server (or servers) get installed? How much did they cost? Whenever they were installed, add 4 years onto the date. Then add 10% per year onto the cost, and add that figure into your plan. When it comes round to buying them, try to purchase a 4-year warranty at the same time – this will mean even parts that need replacement aren’t going to bite you on the bum in terms of costs!
What else should I consider?
Your internet connections come with a start and an end date. You should add them into your plan, so that you know when you need to ask for renewal quotes to keep the internet running at a good speed to make sure everyone can access the things they need.
Whatever you are currently spending on IT Security, the threats are constantly evolving. In this area, try to add 20% to your spend each year, to account for new software to cover emerging threats.
There are a million and one other pieces of IT related hardware that need to be considered on the same 4-year cycle if possible. Some other items to include are;
- Firewall devices
- Network Switches
- Wireless Access Points
- UPS devices
Yes, of course it can. You can include some or all of the following things in your plan if you want to.
- Mobile Phones
- CCTV Hardware
- Access Control Hardware
- Alarm Systems
IT Roadmap Summary?
OK, so there’s a ton to think about. But when you break it down, it’s much more manageable. Start your plan As soon as you can, once it’s started, it can be gradually added to until everything is on the list.
If you have an outsourced IT Support Provider, talk to them. They should be able to assist you with putting together the plan and more importantly, If you and your provider, both stick to the plan, you should have a long and prosperous relationship as neither side never needs to feel hard-done-to, because everyone has a plan that they’ve agreed to.
We can show you what a roadmap looks like if you talk to us!
But ours is 2-fold. One is a series of “Roadmap items” that are stored in our CORE Software system, that are exportable into Excel for ease of reference and management to allow us to work together to make sure that we both understand the detail. The second document is a PowerPoint presentation that sets out what each section of the 4-year period looks like (for example, it includes categories for Security & Maintenance and such like).
If you would like to talk to use about planning your IT Systems and creating a Roadmap, use the button below to book an appointment.