In the previous post on this topic, we discussed the reasons for upgrading technology. Today we will provide an outline of some of steps to accomplish this goal. Managing technology–both hardware and software–has a direct impact on the bottom line. The costs for technology improvements will rise and fall over time. The cost of a computer, for example, stays about the same, but the amount of computing power increases with each generation. Other costs, however, can vary depending on the features selected, discounts offered and the vendor chosen. Managing them to keep the expenses the same or lower is essential to cost-conscious financial management.
All technology has a shelf life.
- Most computer hardware has a serviceable life expectancy between two and five years. These timeframes will vary by business and function so it is important to set your own parameters and expectations for this.
- Laptops 3 years
- Desktops 4 years
- Servers 5 years
- Smartphones 3 years
- Electronic devices are subject to wear and tear from:
- Power outages
- Water damage
- Operating systems and software applications have variable shelf lives based on:
- Business growth
- Manufacturer support
- Upgrade paths
- Interoperability with other systems
Replacements, sometimes called “refreshes” for hardware and software are considered standard practice for technologically healthy companies. What is the best way to guard against excessive technology debt? Think big, plan small!
Assess the current state of your IT environment.
- Determine how many pieces of physical equipment are approaching the end of life.
- Plan and budget to replace a portion of the devices each fiscal year to spread out costs.
- Always have a vendor warranty in force for the critical equipment such as servers and firewalls. Use the warranty expiration and end-of-life dates to plan the replacement schedule.
- If the budget won’t allow replacement of all the older devices at one time, consider extending the warranties. Spacing out the replacement scheduling helps to keep capital expenses balanced.
- Determine the current age and health of the software systems and decide which are operating well and which need to be modified, replaced or scrapped.
- If multiple software applications perform essentially the same operations, decide which one to keep and which to remove.
- Maintain a routine patch schedule for all software including mobile devices.
- Software companies create patches to fix problems that they discover once the product is in use. Installing these patches ensures that software is secure and in the best working condition. It also prepares the system to install the next version upgrade. Note that most companies use a formula built on Version, Build, and Patch releases. The version is the overall software release that you have. The build is usually a consolidation of the patches previously released and may include feature enhancements. Patches are new updates to the software that have not been consolidated into builds.
- Plan patches and upgrades so that software that interacts with other applications doesn’t get out of sync. Accounting software and order processing software, for example, need to be seamlessly integrated to ensure the smooth flow of financial data. Don’t plan to upgrade one of them without making sure that the changes to one do not negatively impact the other.
- Keep a list of any customizations made to the software so when patches or upgrades are applied the customizations are also tested to validate that they still work properly.
Create an activities plan:
- Schedule routine patches for off hour installation.
- Have the primary users available for testing of patches and builds to make sure nothing has “broken”, i.e. when software applications that worked together before the patch lose that ability.
- Determine a regular schedule (many do it monthly or quarterly) and stick to it. Delaying or skipping this process can create performance issues and security vulnerabilities.
- Follow a device replacement schedule
- Once again, delays and skips in the schedule can impact performance and security.
- Make sure resources are available for the changes which will lessen the disruption.
- Schedule regular technology reviews
- Review the uptime and efficiency of all aspects of the technology environment.
- Find solutions for new needs that have arisen.
- Review technology that no longer serves a purpose or can be consolidated into another existing option to save time and money on support.
Performing these activities on a scheduled basis allows a business to keep up to date with newer technology without overspending or risking disruption. A well-running technical environment fosters optimal business performance.
Use a Technology Management company to ensure that your business doesn’t accumulate technology debt and lose revenue due to sub-optimal performance and security.