How to Conduct an Information Technology Assessment [Step #1 to an Effective IT Strategy]

Written By: Eric Kimberling
Date: December 12, 2022
information technology assessment

When embarking on a digital transformation journey, one of the first steps you need to do is assess where your company or business is at today and where you are today has to include your information technology and your information technology capabilities within the organization.

But how exactly do you conduct a information technology assessment as part of your digital transformation? That's what we want to talk about in this article.

One of the first things we need to do is look at where you are today, what do your business processes look like, what does the organization look like, what's the culture, what are your future State strategy goals and objectives, what is your I.T. organization look like, what is your IT capability and function look like? 

Conducting information technology assessments and understanding of the current landscape, such as the strengths and weaknesses, will ultimately help you define how to get to that future state. What we want to do today is talk about the steps required to conduct an effective Information technology assessment.

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Software Applications

The first and perhaps most obvious thing that needs to be assessed as part of an information technology assessment, is an understanding of the software applications that are currently in use throughout your organization. Oftentimes, this consists of a few core systems that are used by much of the organization but it also uncovers a number of other systems that are being used. Oftentimes, without any sort of centralized knowledge that the systems are being used in the first place. Frequently, we work with clients that might be using several hundred different applications and half of them they weren't even aware were being used by certain parts of the organization. 

Getting a complete inventory of the different technologies that are being used, how they're being used, how they're integrated, where the data is stored, how they're not integrated, where the data is corrupt and all those different components of a software landscape, is really important to understand so that you're not just going straight to your future state but instead you're understanding what it is you have to work with today. This allows you to be a little bit more prescriptive and customized in terms of how you define a digital strategy and how to help you get there.

Next, once you've defined the inventory of applications that you have in place you also want to assess how well those systems fit or don't fit with what your needs are for the future. This would include functional fit, how well does “Application A” support its intended purpose for the organization. You also want to understand what kind of support is available for that solution, is it a current solution that has robust support available to you as an organization or is it a solution that's being sunset, that soon won't have any support or maybe already doesn't have support.

You also want to look at not only third party support but internal competencies as well. In other words, how well do people internally, within the organization, understand how to use that software. 

Finally, you also have to look at the long-term roadmap for that solution, is it a product that's viable in the long term or is it one that's on the decline and is likely to be replaced by some other flagship product provided by that vendor. You want to understand those different components of the current systems you have in place now so that you get a heat map of that inventory and understanding of how well all the different systems in your application inventory meet those various needs.

Architecture and Integration

Next, once we've defined the different applications and we have an inventory, now we look at the architecture and the integration among those different systems. In other words, we look at how those systems talk to one another, whether or not they even do talk to one another and where the data resides. We want to make sure we understand the enterprise architecture that exists so that we can see where the strengths are, where the breakdowns are, where the opportunities for improvement are. 

We also want to look at not just the architecture and integration but also understand the different platforms we have. There might be development platforms that the organization is using to create customized solutions or maybe spot solutions, point solutions to address specific needs that commercial off-the-shelf systems may not be able to address. 

It's imperative to have a complete understanding of how that software application landscape ties together, how it integrates what the architecture is and what the different platforms that are used within the organization so that again we can define a digital strategy and a roadmap and understand where we're starting from and then define how we're going to get to that future state.

Data and Analytics

Another important part of an information technology assessment, is looking at your data and analytics. Data is increasingly important to organizations, it's becoming an asset that can be extremely valuable once an organization figures out how to use that data and make better use of that data. Really understanding your sources of data, the strengths and weaknesses of the data you have in place is extremely important. It's also important to understand how data flows throughout different systems, so if you have a siloed or fragmented technology landscape, you want to know where the data resides today and how it's flowing between systems. 

Data is an important input into another component of this whole bucket, which is analytics reporting and business intelligence, what kind of reports do we use today, what kind of information are we looking for, what are the things that we wish we had that we don't have access to today in terms of data, reports, analytics and business intelligence.

It's an understanding of what is in place and working today and where the deficiencies are. This helps us understand where the opportunities for improvement are as well as help us define that future state, how we might improve and build on the strengths we have today and address those weaknesses within data and analytics.

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IT and Organization

So far we have talked about the more physical components of Information technology, the systems, the architecture, the data, the areas you can see, touch and feel but there's another organizational component, which are assessments that need to be implemented. We need to look at the IT organization as a whole, understand what competencies and skills we have today because it may be that we want to build on those skills that we have today. We might find that the competencies we have are so deep that it might affect the types of technologies we deploy in the future.

In addition, we often find that IT organizations are more focused on support and break/fix types of functions. In other words, they're there to make sure that the technology keeps running when it breaks and then they fix it.  Many organizations are trying to move to a more strategic role for IT departments, so we've got to understand and measure where those gaps are between where we are today and that support/break fix mentality versus that more proactive strategic skill set that we might be looking for from our IT department in the future. 

This is why it's vitally important to look at the entire organization, the skills we have, how we're organized, the sorts of competencies we have in-house, the sorts of competencies we're leveraging third parties for and in the future. Furthermore, to recognize the types of competencies we might want to continue to build either in-house or via third party outsourced providers.

Typically, when we go through a digital transformation there's going to be a material and significant impact to the IT organization, so in order to define what that future state IT organization is going to look like, we need to understand what the current state IT organization looks like, which is why this piece of it is so important to the overall it assessment.

Strategic Alignment

All of these different components of the IT assessment that we have talked about so far really culminates in an assessment of how well our current IT organization and our IT capabilities support or align with our future state, strategic vision. In other words, we need to understand where we are today and how that compares to what is needed to support our future state strategy goals and objectives. 

Now that we've assessed our current state, we do a Gap analysis against what we think we're going to need in the future to support that future state strategy. For example, if you're an organization that has made the deliberate decision to invest heavily in analytics, business intelligence and data, you may find that you don't have the right capabilities to support that.

That information gives you a thread to work with in your digital strategy, which would be to further build those capabilities within the organization so that the IT department can support those data and analytic capabilities that you're looking for in the future.

Typically, what comes out of the Strategic alignment assessment piece of the overall information technology assessment is a series of activities that are required to start to migrate the IT organization from where it is today, to where it needs to be in the future. Through this Gap analysis we understand what it is that we need to change, we understand how big the changes are going to be and we can start to put a plan in place to start executing on that to start to move the needle and move the IT organization where it needs to be to support our future state goals and objectives. 

All of these things we have talked about here today are an important input and foundational aspect of defining a future state digital strategy. You want to make sure you have a clear information technology assessment and a good understanding of your current state so that you have a good understanding of where it is you're going and how hard it's going to be to get there, how long it's going to take, how much it's going to cost etc. so I hope this has provided you some guidance and understanding of how an I.T assessment might fit into your overall digital strategy.

If you are looking to strategize an upcoming transformation or are looking at selecting an ERP system, we would love to give you some insights. Please contact me for more information

Be sure to download the newly released 2023 Digital Transformation Report to garner additional industry insight and project best practices.

Kimberling Eric Blue Backgroundv2
Eric Kimberling

Eric is known globally as a thought leader in the ERP consulting space. He has helped hundreds of high-profile enterprises worldwide with their technology initiatives, including Nucor Steel, Fisher and Paykel Healthcare, Kodak, Coors, Boeing, and Duke Energy. He has helped manage ERP implementations and reengineer global supply chains across the world.

Eric Kimberling
Eric is known globally as a thought leader in the ERP consulting space. He has helped hundreds of high-profile enterprises worldwide with their technology initiatives, including Nucor Steel, Fisher and Paykel Healthcare, Kodak, Coors, Boeing, and Duke Energy. He has helped manage ERP implementations and reengineer global supply chains across the world.
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