19 July 2023

How to perform an IT Assessment

How to perform an IT Assessment

IT assessments form the core of many business decisions, giving managers access to valuable insights that let them make informed decisions. But how do you organise one and what do you include in the process?

If you’ve worked at any sufficiently large organisation, chances are that the IT ecosystem in place is based on an IT assessment. While the name gives away what’s involved, it pays to know the specifics. In this article, we’ll explore IT assessments from a high level to make it easier to perform them yourself or to communicate with your IT provider.

What is an IT Assessment?

An IT assessment is a comprehensive evaluation of your organisation’s information technology infrastructure, systems, and practices. that aims to identify the strengths, weaknesses, and areas for improvement that exist in your IT ecosystem. It involves analysing the effectiveness, efficiency, and security of the IT resources you have in place – including hardware, software, networks, and data management processes.

The assessment helps business managers and decision-makers gain valuable insights into your IT capabilities, risks, and opportunities – all so you can make informed decisions that align your technology investments with your organisational goals.

Why undertake an IT Assessment?

There are a few reasons you should regularly perform IT assessments.

Firstly, an assessment provides decisions makers like you with a clear understanding of the current state of your organisation’s IT infrastructure, systems, and processes. The results can help you identify inefficiencies or vulnerabilities that could impact business operations.

Secondly, an IT assessment lets you evaluate the alignment between your IT environment with your organisation’s strategic goals. If there are gaps between what your IT needs to do and its current capabilities, an IT assessment will highlight them for future review. In turn, this can help prioritise IT investment opportunities by optimising resource allocations based on outcome priorities.

Thirdly – and perhaps more pressingly given recent cybersecurity developments – an IT assessment can assist in identifying any potential risks and security vulnerabilities in your IT environment. This includes ad-hoc daily workflows that might otherwise get missed in more focused security reviews

When is outsourcing IT Assessments a good idea?

Outsourcing an IT assessment is not a choice to make lightly. If you have staff with the objectivity and specialisations to perform an IT assessment, it’s always a good idea to consider their point of view.

With that said, the main driver behind the decision to outsource often comes back to four key areas.

  • Specialisation – outsourcing an IT assessment means your organisation can leverage the expertise and knowledge of technical professionals with extensive experience. These experts possess a deep understanding of industry best practices, specialising in applying emerging technologies and identifying hidden IT pitfalls.
  • Perspective – an outsourced IT assessment can provide an unbiased view of your organisation’s IT infrastructure and processes. External consultants can offer reviews that re free from internal influence. Objective outlooks that are less likely to be influenced by organisational biases or internal politics can, in turn, lead to more accurate insights and recommendations.
  • Innovation – outsourcing IT assessments can bring fresh ideas and innovative approaches to bear on the assessment process. External consultants often have exposure to a wide range of organisations and industries and can extrapolate different solutions to meet new demands. This experience lets them identify potentially novel solutions and strategies that may not be apparent from an internal perspective. With that said, it’s essential that any third party you outsource to is upfront about any sales commissions they may earn through their services.
  • Focus – with the right provider, outsourcing the assessment can help you save time and resources to spend in other areas. Conducting an in-depth assessment requires significant time, effort, and dedicated resources, which may be limited internally. Outsourcing allows the IT Manager and their team to focus on their core responsibilities while external experts carry out the assessment.
Five key areas of an IT Assessment Audit

An IT assessment evaluates your organisation’s IT infrastructure and operations by assessing five key areas. As the purpose of an IT audit is to evaluate the effectiveness of the IT infrastructure, the areas of focus tend to align closely with the responsibilities of an IT manager whether you have one in house or not.

The five critical areas involved in an IT assessment are:

  1. System security – this area focuses on assessing your organisation’s security posture and identifying potential vulnerabilities or risks. It involves reviewing the effectiveness of security measures such as firewalls, antivirus software, access controls, and employee awareness and training programs. Additionally, it may include assessing your organisation’s response and incident management capabilities.
  2. Standards and procedures. Evaluating IT governance involves assessing your organisation’s IT policies, procedures, and practices. It includes reviewing IT project management processes, change management processes, service desk operations, and IT service delivery. This area aims to identify areas where your organisation can optimise its governance and processes to enhance efficiency by aligning them with business objectives.
  3. Performance monitoring refers to the solutions used to measure the performance of various IT systems, infrastructure components, and applications within your organisation. It involves gathering and analysing data related to system utilisation, response times, throughput, resource consumption, and other relevant metrics. Evaluating performance monitoring solutions involves assessing the efficiency and fit of any IT resources that go into your monitoring processes.
  4. Documentation and reporting refers to evaluating the documentation practices and reporting mechanisms within your organisation’s IT environment. It involves assessing the adequacy, accuracy, and accessibility of IT documentation and the effectiveness of reporting processes to find gaps between your business needs and what your systems can deliver.
  5. Systems development. While this may sound out of reach for smaller players, systems development refers to evaluating how your organisation implements new software and applications. This area includes practices and processes related to projects that enhance your organisation’s IT systems – including design, deployment, and maintenance processes.

Within each of these areas, your chosen auditor will run through an evaluation checklist to ensure they cover parts of your organisation’s IT environment. However, the specific areas covered in an IT assessment may vary depending on the organisation’s size, industry, and unique requirements.

How to conduct an IT assessment

Like any business audit, an IT assessment usually occurs over a few days. While the prep involved takes place well beforehand, the assessment itself can be relatively quick.

Step 1: Book the project

Key points in this step include:

  • Who is performing the audit?
  • When will your audit take place?
  • What do your employees need to prepare for the assessment?

The decision to either hire an external IT expert or conduct your own internal audit can depend largely on your organisation. Larger forms often choose to go with an outside auditor, as they can afford the expense and appreciate the value of a third-party perspective, while smaller firms may find that an internal audit is more than adequate – and can cost less up front.

The IT auditor will need to speak with different stakeholders about your IT workflows, so ensuring these key personnel have time in their schedules before proceeding is essential.

Step 2: Prep for the assessment

Once you have scheduled the assessment when people aren’t too busy, it’s time to prepare for the assessment itself. In practice, this involves:

  • Drafting assessment objectives and scope
  • Organising how the auditor will document the assessment
  • Drawing up an assessment schedule
Step 3: Conduct the assessment

There aren’t any bullets to this point. If you’ve performed the first two steps well enough, this step just involved executing the plan you created.

That said, it pays to build extra time into the assessment process itself. That way, if things go awry and you need to navigate last-minute hurdles, your auditor has the breathing room to ensure they’re not rushed and don’t miss something in the audit.

Step 4: Document the findings

When the assessment is complete, it’s time to compile the findings. Your auditor likely has a hefty set of spreadsheets full of notes and suggestions – the next step is to turn these into an official document for future reference.

This document should include reports for the heads of each department involved. These reports should summarise the elements evaluated, list items that don’t currently need further consideration, and highlight any gaps your auditor identified, such as:

  • Risks caused by poor adherence to established procedures.
  • Risks caused by solution vulnerabilities.
  • Risks inherent to a department that likely can’t be eliminated may be mitigated somehow.

Along with each item, your document should explain what the next steps will be in order to address the risks identified.

Step 5: Follow up

Once your IT assessment documentation is complete, it’s time to schedule meetings with each team to cover the areas that need attention, with resources and timelines drawn up as appropriate.

To ensure that any corrections are implemented successfully, schedule several follow-ups at regular intervals. These check-ins also ensure that everything runs smoothly until the following IT assessment.

Factors to include after your assessment

As your organisation begins to move forward with its new and improved IT solutions, it’s also wise to set up automatic tracking and reporting of the KPIs affected by these solutions to measure the impact of each change. Then, when you check in with your teams over the following months, you can easily pull these reports to help them assess the solution’s performance and measure it against your expectations.