Following on from the headlines this week of hacked hospital technology, it is important for business leaders to understand their options for getting their technology up to date.
First, it is worth understanding how you got into the current situation. There are many reasons technology gets out of date in a business, understanding why you have aged technology in place will help you decide the next best step.
- Do you have line of business applications that need old platforms to run?
- Did you set something in place years ago and not notice it aging?
- Have you, like so many of us, been fighting to keep your head above water and spending on IT simply did not seem like the right thing to do?
- Do you have support staff who think they are saving you money by constantly applying Band-Aids to old solutions?
- Do you have a mindset of if it ain’t broke don’t fix it?
- Or is there a raft of complex reasons that stop you updating?
Next look at your motivations and timeframes for updating:
- Has technology changed to create better options?
- Are you taking excessive risks with aged software versions or hardware?
- Do you need to catch up with your own update regime?
- Has budget become available or is it about to expire?
- Do you have a different compelling reason to update?
So you now understand why you are where you are and have some reason to want or need to run a technology update.
Now, the complex bit is how do you manage this process? Let’s face it most people do not like change and we have a change management process to run. This is not just about getting new technology, it is about getting a team of people to work together to implement change and others to then accept the changed systems and work with them.
There are many ways to run this change process and it is often fraught with problems, many of which can be overcome with better planning for the change and the impact on your people.
Now, ask yourself do you need to replace the entire system or do you simply need to bring it up to a current version or patch level to meet your business requirements?
If system replacement is required, assessing the available tools to select the best solution to move to may require a mix of business analysis and product selection.
The business analysis is to understand the needs of your compnay today and how they are different to the needs that had you when you implement the old technology. Product selection is to assess the range of technologies on the market today to understand which is the best option for you.
Getting this phase of the planning right will ensure your money spent represents value to the business.
Once you have selected your technology components to implement, assess your technology project team and ask yourself if the people who helped get you to here are the right ones to get you to where you need to be.
Be honest with yourself about their level of competence and their level of engagement. If they are engaged but not competent, can they be trained to get to where they need to be for less than it would cost to bring in consultants or technical experts to perform the change project?
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Often the time it takes to perform the training and the time it takes the staff away from the day-to-day running of things is more expensive than the upgrade process. Consider training your staff for the ongoing running of the new systems rather than training them to implement a technology upgrade just once. Bringing implementers in can get a system that would otherwise have taken weeks or months to implement done in days or weeks. The rapid implementation then brings about a quick change and leaves people in a state of change for a briefer, less disruptive period.
It may also be that you need a mix of skillsets and technologies to perform the technology update. Finding all these skills inside your business may not be the best approach. Today finding external teams that can collaborate across networks, server platforms, applications and communication is becoming more and more important as no one technology expert or company can cover all these aspects. Consider tapping into a pool of resources.
Following up the change with user acceptance training can help to ensure that the new systems are used more effectively to offer better productivity. Staff who are afraid of the new IT system or left feeling incompetent to do their jobs can have a very big impact on morale and lead to other issues in the business.
With IT change is inevitable, saving money now can cause cost blowouts later, while updates can create major business advantage when done well. If you have the desire to change or the need to, seek advice and assistance early to ensure you get great outcomes.
David Markus is the founder of Combo – the IT services company that is known for business IT that makes sense. How can we help?