As we start 2019, many firms have already put in a number of hours developing their business plan for the upcoming year. Perhaps the plan for this next year is truly transformational for your firm or maybe it is about continuing and improving on the initiatives from previous years or even something in between.

Whatever the case is for your firm, you should try to understand and articulate the role technology plays in each initiative and in your overall business plan. Here are some steps to consider as you address the technology aspects of your 2019 business plan.

1. The first premise for your 2019 business plan should be that every major initiative, objective and goal involves some level of technology.

This is just the nature of business today in a connected world. Because of this, it is not uncommon to overlook or take for granted that the technology components are easily understood, and therefore they may not be clearly defined for each initiative.

Given this potential risk, be sure that the technology items involved are documented or at least discussed. A good starting point is to simply list the technology components involved in each initiative, and outline the role that they serve in the initiative … no matter how big or small that role might be.

2. As you work on your 2019 business plan, a best practice with the goal setting exercise is to create “SMART” goals: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound.

The same approach also is helpful when creating your firm’s technology goals, either as a standalone objective or as part of a larger initiative within your 2019 business plan. This is especially important when the “success” of the technology goal could be significantly influenced based on subjective opinions rather than on more concrete data and objective information.

For example, I might not be impressed with or even like a particular technology system, but that doesn’t automatically mean it is not successful in my business because it might in fact achieve the SMART goals I originally intended for it.

By laying out SMART goals, you can help your firm continue to move forward in achieving your technology goals, and you can avoid getting stuck because of false hopes or changing objectives. Frequently, strong subjective opinions, both positive and negative, can have too much weight in our evaluation of the success for a technology goal.

3. Considering the fast pace and change with the current technology environment, now more than ever, it is critical that there is a “technology research” component within your 2019 business plan.

You don’t want to miss or simply not be aware of new technology systems, solutions and features that would benefit your firm.

Meeting this goal could entail several different variations. It can start with better understanding the new features and opportunities available with your existing technology solutions. Another opportunity with this goal could involve researching and evaluating an entirely new type of technology product that may benefit your firm.

It is important to be flexible as you work through this information gathering process, because you may find your best sources are your clients or your staff — the heaviest users of your current technology.

Ideally, you want an opportunity that is identified during the technology research process to be implemented if it is a good idea that will benefit your firm. Of course, this can certainly happen anytime during the year.

4. Technology success for your firm involves many more components than the underlying technology by itself.

The training, education, and skills of your employees also play a significant role in achieving the technology goals for your firm. In fact, it could be the most important role.

This could entail regular continuing education for existing technology products or an extensive training program in support of the implementation of a new technology solution. Whatever the situation or goal might be, be sure that this important category is properly accounted for in your 2019 business plan.

When you review all the technology items in your 2019 business plan, you should see a clear connection to a number of critical goals that any firm would like to achieve — items like improved efficiency, better reliability, excellent service, more scalability, and many other goals that help your firm become a world class organization.

It is also important to be critical of any technology items within your 2019 business plan that get in the way of realizing these goals. In other words, the goal may be good, but the underlying technology deployed to achieve it may be inadequate.

Therefore, with everything that you are trying to achieve in 2019, watch for technology items or processes that could fall under the “Stop Doing” category. It is not uncommon that the best way to move forward is to first back up. Reviewing your goals will help you to see more clearly which efforts are working and which are not.