'Tis The Season For Technology Upgrades
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'Tis The Season For Technology Upgrades

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'Tis The Season For Technology Upgrades

IT'S HARD TO believe but Christmas holidays are fast approaching.

It's a relatively quiet time for many organisations - which means that it's a great time to attend to all of those low priority "house-keeping" tasks that have been clogging your to-do lists for months. The holiday season also provides a terrific opportunity to run some short, sharp - and potentially disruptive - business improvement projects. And it's usually an ideal time to upgrade some, or all, of your information technology. On the positive side, if your upgrade project runs a little overtime or there is an unexpected complication the impact will be minimised because business is normally slow anyway. However, like most things in life, if you're not properly prepared small project challenges have the potential to trigger catastrophic downstream impacts. Here's some tips that will help you to substantially reduce your business risks.

Plan, plan, plan.

Too often we think that planning for apparently simple jobs is a waste of time, money and effort. The reality is that most of us are born optimists who genuinely believe that all we need to do is plug it in and it will work! What we need to do is to break the job down into individual tasks. Complex tasks should be broken down further into sub-tasks. This process should help to uncover all the activities needed to successfully complete the job. Often a 10 minute brain storming session will help to uncover activities and tasks that you would otherwise take for granted. Next, for each task you need to identify what activities need to be completed before you can start. Most of us have examples of projects that have stalled because we find ourselves waiting on something. At this point you can decide who is responsible for each task and you should seek their advice about the time they will need to complete their allotted activities. Again, most people are optimistic, so make a generous allowance! Perhaps most importantly, spend a lot of time planning for things that might go wrong. Ask yourself a lot of questions such as:

  • "What if this breaks our entire system?"
  • "What if one of the team falls ill?"
  • "What if the widget doesn't work?"
  • "What if the project is running weeks behind schedule?"
  • "What if we need additional specialist knowledge or expertise?"
  • "What if a supplier doesn't meet their obligations?"

Pre-planning for these problems will help ensure that you reduce the risk of serious business impact if things run off the rails.

Backup!

Before you start anything make sure that you have a complete and tested set of backups. That way, even if the very worst happens you will be able to recover your priceless business data. Bear in mind the Backup Rule of Three. Basically, if you don't maintain:

  • Three copies of everything
  • In two different formats
  • With one copy kept off-site

Then you can't be assured of always having usable information. Obviously your systems will probably be live throughout your project - so continue to back up. Be as paranoid as you practically can!

Find a Life Saver or two

Good quality tech support during December and January can be hard to find - and all the more so if you don't have a strong pre-existing relationship with an IT Services provider. If you happen to find an organisation that is prepared to help you will likely have a low priority because their existing customers will always come first. If you don't have one already, now is the time to establish a relationship with one or two providers. Explain that you are running a project over the holiday period and you might need some support. Be prepared to purchase some block-hours or perhaps a limited service contract. This will ensure that you receive priority if and when you need it. Pre-paid block hours is generally a good option because if you can hold them for later use. A professional services contract could be used if there is a potential need for a time critical response - particularly out of normal business hours.

Get an External Perspective

Sometimes we can't see the woods for the trees. We're simply too close to the problem at hand. It's always wise to seek advice from someone who is has experience with similar projects. This could be a casual discussion with a peer over a coffee or it could be a short, sharp structured review by a season professional. What you need depends on the amount of project risk that you believe you are carrying.

Still Not Comfortable?

All Information Technology projects are risky by nature. If, after you've done all he planning, you're not extremely confident of success get someone in to help. The additional expense of a project manager, technical consultant or systems engineer will pay off because your chances of success will be vastly improved.