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Every Great Project Starts with a Plan

July 6, 2010 - 2 Comments

Planning for IT Growth Improves Results and Keeps Costs Down

As we get to know each other you’ll find out that I’m a HUGE foodie. I love to cook and I drive my family a crazy with my cooking shows, recipe books, and celebrity chef sightings. But I think the thing I drive them most insane with is my ridiculous Ratatouille doll (2007, Disney Pixar cartoon). If you touch his nose, he talks. And the first thing he says every time is:

“Let’s get ready to cook! Every great meal starts with a first ingredient.”

I wish he’d say “Every great meal starts with a recipe,” which is a cook’s plan. I often teach people to cook, and I find many people have a common challenge when learning to cookthey don’t read the recipe ahead of time. This leads to two problems: 1) When timing is critical, they aren’t prepared to act (such as requiring an ingredient that isn’t ready for the pan), or 2) They find themselves lacking ingredients and don’t achieve the results they hoped for. The other benefit of planning is being able to save money by shopping for specials.

I promise not to always draw cooking parallels, but there are two things in my life I spend a lot of time thinking aboutnetworking and cookingand believe it or not there are a lot of similarities. The planning issue is obvious. If you walk into a poorly stocked kitchen and try to throw something together with out a recipe you are starting from a disadvantage. It’s the same with technology. If you don’t have a plan, you’ll keep randomly throwing things into the pot (so to speak), and you’ll end up spending more money because you missed out on specials.

As the economy has been rough, many vendors are offering special incentives such as flexible, low-rate financing and trade in programs that give you credit for your older equipment. Cisco Capital has a great financing program and any of our partners can help you look for additional incentives.

Here are some basic steps to take as you embark on your technology plan:

1. Equipment audit & inventory. You can’t know what you need until you know what you have. So start (or update) a spreadsheet that captures the following items for all hardware. Be sure to include items like phones–they’re often overlooked, and we all know how essential they are to business.

· Purchase date

· Serial numbers

· Vendor item was purchased from (this is crucial)

· Warranty information

· Maintenance performed (date, work done, etc.)

2. Software audit & inventory. Same as above–you have to know what you have in order to determine what you may need. The following items will help you keep track of it all.

· Purchase date and version number

· Serial numbers

· Vendor item was purchased from (this is crucial)

· Warranty information

· Renewal dates

· Number of seats/licenses

· Personnel whose computer the software is deployed on

3. Staff audit. Talk to your staff; find out where they feel like they are wasting the most time. There are simple software solutions to many problems that can save your company money. For example, if your business relies on outbound phone calls to customers; integrating your CRM with your phone system could have an amazing impact. You can track calls easily, you can automate dialing, which saves time and eliminates wrong numbers.

4. Customer audit. Ask your customers what you could do better. How’s your web interface? Do they find it easy to reach your employees when they need something? How long are they spending on hold when they call in? Do your employees have immediate access to the information they need to immediately and successfully resolve customer inquiries?

5. Find a Partner. Research local, certified technology vendors. Talk about where you want to take your business. Develop a relationship that’s based on mutual trust and you’ll go far together. A good partner knows that his business doesn’t grow unless his customers succeed and will be just as committed to your success as you are.

I met with Jon Peck of Peck and Tuneski la few months ago.He has established a very relationship with his Cisco reseller partner and feels like they have a tremendous impact on his success.Here’s what he had to say:

What are your top planning tips? (Or share a good recipe!)

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  1. Thanks, Glad you enjoyed the article!

  2. Your tips are really good.