There comes a time in every business when aging tech systems simply have to be upgraded, whether it’s to make them easier, safer or more cost-effective. While this process is necessary, it can also be overwhelming, especially for young tech leaders tasked with making it all happen.
Taking the time to gather all the necessary information and carefully lay out a plan will help ensure a smooth transition that will serve the company well for years to come. For practical advice, review these 14 insights from the members of Forbes Technology Council.
1. Think about the entire process.
Take a “clean slate” approach. Don’t just upgrade the technology; think about the processes and how users’ work has evolved. This way, not only are the systems updated but so are the business processes and the ways they help users stay productive and competitive. – Juliette Rizkallah, SailPoint
2. Spend some time with the end-users.
IT professionals’ ideas about how the end-user utilizes software are often based on manuals rather than experience. Spending time with the end-user helps you understand the actual workflow and the steps involved in the tech’s productive use. – Kevin Korte, Univention
3. Start by asking lots of questions.
Before you jump in and start making changes to an older system, be sure you first understand how it works and why it’s been built the way it has. It can be easy (and often tempting) to blame the person or people before you for all these “bad” designs. But there are usually a lot of good reasons (constraints and dependencies) for them, many of which may still hold true. – Chris Grundemann, Myriad360
4. Consider the platform, scale and automation.
First, consider the platform: Ensure the technology you are deploying is extensible and has a long lifecycle. Next, scale: If you are supporting or deploying 10 widgets today, think about how you will support 1,000. Finally, automation: Seek platforms with APIs and scripting capabilities to automate all aspects of configuration, deployment, maintenance and monitoring. – Ranjan Singh, Crestron
5. Upgrade in stages.
Don’t try to implement all upgrades at one time. Every puzzle has pieces, and when they’re put together one by one, you can see the entire picture. Planned upgrades yield more fruitful results than the “big bang” approach. – Bhavna Juneja, Infinity, a Stamford Technology Company
6. Understand how tech has evolved.
Technology and networks have evolved significantly over the last 30 years. Understanding this evolution will help you to identify the cycles when upgrades should be expected while monitoring your business roadmap. This will help prioritize where upgrades are important while methodically planning for anticipated needs. – Grant Kirkwood, Unitas Global
7. Identify issues and determine how new tech can solve them.
Newer doesn’t always mean better. When upgrading, consider if the change is truly an upgrade or if you’re exchanging an older system that isn’t causing issues for something that’s shinier but may come with a steep learning curve and lack of productivity for the organization. Upgrades should address issues, so start by identifying the issues and how the new technology will solve them without disrupting existing work. – Alexander Hill, Senseye
8. Look for ways to simplify the system.
When upgrading, organizations should ensure they are benefiting from continued innovation by the vendor. Upgrading is also an opportunity to simplify your IT landscape. Many legacy applications require multiple products to support different business processes. A more modern solution can support many business processes within a unified platform at a lower cost of maintenance and ownership. – Tom Shea, OneStream Software
9. Focus on ease of use.
Generally, you are upgrading older equipment because there are newer systems with more capability, but pay attention to how easy those new systems are to use. A more usable system will be a more highly utilized system, and that requirement can often get lost amid all the fancy new features. – Kelleher Guerin, READY Robotics
10. Think ‘agile.’
The finance industry is moving towards an open, “everything-as-a-service” approach. As you plan your upgrade, think “agile.” Design architecture with the future in mind, and build open to allow for collaboration. Draw from relationships—both internal and external—to understand how partnerships can help you achieve your digital transformation goals. – Eli Rosner, Finastra
11. Include a contingency plan.
There are a lot of resources available to guide you through planning and executing hardware upgrades and refreshes. Use them. Then make a plan and document it, including a contingency for something unexpected happening—because it will. – Saryu Nayyar, Gurucul
12. Re-examine your tools.
Modern tools allow you to rebuild it better, faster and easier. I’d recommend re-examining the tools used in building and maintaining the old tech—as well as the problems of finding the talent to maintain the old tech. – Vipin Jain, Pensando Systems
13. Enforce security controls on legacy systems.
Upgrading old tech systems, such as industrial or medical devices, to make them more secure isn’t just a technical problem; changes could invalidate their warranty. Tech leaders need to look for ways to enforce security controls on top of legacy systems that do not require making modifications to them. – Hed Kovetz, Silverfort
14. Consider starting from scratch.
Sometimes (but not always!), it’s easier to start over than to retrofit—find a completely new way to solve the same problem. The long-term costs of continuing to operate an outdated system often outweigh the ease of saying, “Let’s upgrade what we already have.” Upgrading repeatedly can create an anchor that ties you to an outdated way of operating. – Jason Walker, BigPanda