Keeping on Top of Tech
Delegating your technology needs to your IT team is a mistake, argues Robert Peake. As a leader you need to understand and drive the IT strategy within your business.
You know that information technology plays a critical role in your business – after all, it’s how you produce work and how you communicate with clients, consultants, builders, the industry. It’s the systems that underpin your financials, operations, marketing and communications.
And no doubt, you will be as aware of the common business risks associated with technology – such as hardware and software failure, spam, viruses and malicious attacks – as you are of natural disasters, such as fires, cyclones or floods. There is any amount of advice and material on how to manage these types of risks and typically the approach and advice will be that you need to “develop a risk management plan” or a “response plan” in the event of an IT crisis. Or that you can manage IT risks by “completing a business risk assessment”.
But in our experience, based on working with architects, engineers and other built environment consultants for many years, the risks associated with technology go far deeper than these typical examples and recommended solutions.
At Management for Design, we invariably find that the biggest risk with technology and business is associated with the leadership of the business. Your dilemma as a leader of your business is that you are typically busy generating work, designing and delivering projects, working with clients and managing your people. Consequently, it’s easy to rely on your IT team to drive, manage and improve your IT systems and infrastructure, generate the IT budget, manage costs and implement BIM. That’s not the solution in today’s technologically dependent industry.
The genuine business risks associated with this situation – where the leaders are not actively engaged in IT (and Systems) – won’t be identified if you ask your IT or Risk Management “experts”. Some say that truth hurts, but in business the truth can open your eyes to problem areas as well as to opportunities that are being missed. Let’s look at what this means.
The role of the leader
There are some things that are universal to successful engineering and consultant companies. One of these is solid business foundations built on systems and technology. Your role as a business leader is to set, drive and enhance these business foundations – this is not something that can be delegated or assigned to “IT Management”.
It is incumbent on the leaders / the principals / the directors to ensure the IT strategy is aligned with your overall business strategic objectives. You need to be clear about how you want to be positioned in the industry. Is your objective to be a leader or follower in technology, and can you articulate to your team why this is and what this means?
As a minimum, you should know why you are using your current software solutions, why you are working in Revit and AutoCAD or another system solution, and what this is delivering for your business. You need to invest your time to understand these key issues so that you can work effectively with your IT team, and challenge them when necessary. It’s your responsibility to ensure the expectations are delivered, and if not, why not? What needs to happen differently?
Take a test
Test yourself and ask these fundamental questions:
- What should your IT expenditure be as a proportion of revenue?
- Can you clearly articulate why your business is going down the Revit and BIM path?
- Do you know what generative design can do for your clients?
- Do you understand why you are using a VPN?
- Do you know what’s the average technology spend for similar businesses in your industry?
- Do your financials clearly itemise your technology expenditure?
- Do you measure the effectiveness of your IT? And if so, how?
- How do you assess the performance of your IT team?
- What plans do you have in place to enhance the IT expertise in your business?
- How are you enhancing your knowledge of the IT solutions in and available to your business?
- Have you considered how you could leverage VR and AR to gain a competitive advantage?
If you aren’t clear or lack knowledge or interest in these fundamental issues in relation to your business, then you should have a plan in place to get up to speed. The opportunities (and challenges) related to the application of technology are immense and increasing. Don’t leave it to the next generation to grasp the opportunity.
Robert Peake is a director of Management for Design. The company provides integrated business systems and services to the industry across strategy, finance, information technology, human resource management and business systems.