Managing your way through a tech refreshMar 12, 2019
We’ve been talking a lot about this concept of drawing your IT management line in the sand. How do you choose what to take on yourself and what requires outside expertise?
In our last post, TELUS Customer Solutions Architects David Steele and Nathan Roarty, applied the line in the sand concept to cyber security. They discussed important considerations around skills, money and liability. Now, they turn their attention to technology refresh.
Q: Why does a technology refresh usually trigger a different type of conversation?
DS: Depending on where a company is in its technology lifecycle, periods arise when there is a need to replace or modernize. The existing technology is no longer fit for purpose. Either there are limitations in capacity, challenges in supporting required features, or it is no longer serviceable. Mergers also trigger technology refresh projects because they often signal a change in direction and introduce new modes of operating. In those instances – obsolescence or transition – companies start considering where partnering with providers may make the most sense.
Q: What are the biggest challenges in terms of skills?
NR: Migration is often the biggest challenge. Existing staff knows how to manage the old infrastructure, but it is unlikely an organization has in-house professionals with the specific skills required to carry out a migration. Because you’re only migrating once, it doesn’t make sense to cultivate those skills internally. However, it is important to have a plan in place to provide the skills to operate and manage the post-migration environment.
DS: I had an interesting customer case regarding technology refresh. It was a company that previously had no IT resource in house. When the company finally brought in someone to manage IT, he had a vision. He wanted to consolidate and have uniform tools and systems. But he didn’t have the staff capable of executing. In this case, he turned to TELUS for the design and planning skills to help him realize his vision.
NR: There really are three, core skill sets required for a technology refresh. First, you need skills to identify the end game. What are our business needs and how are we going to satisfy those with technology? Then you need migration expertise and finally, the skills for ongoing operations. The success of your technology refresh hinges on drawing your line in the sand in the right way for those three core skill sets.
Q: How do companies decide how to spend on a tech refresh?
DS: Allotting money for the actual technology acquisition and migration usually isn’t the issue. Most companies recognize that they need to spend and will access funds early on. The key consideration becomes whether a capital or operational expense model makes the most sense.
NR: Not all tech refresh approaches are valid for everybody. A good way to start is by looking at how your company prefers to operate. For example, you may need to refresh your phone system because it has reached end of life. You could invest capital and buy another system that will last a defined period of time. Or you could shift to an operational model and transition to an as-a-service solution. Beyond access to new solutions and capabilities, a technology refresh creates an opportunity to shift spending buckets.
Q: What is the liability line in the sand for tech refresh?
NR: It comes down to the risk of doing nothing versus the risk of change. If you have a telephone system that is out of support, and you don’t do something, then the liabilities are failure and no phone service. In this case, liability may be exactly what triggers the exploration of a tech refresh. But the migration also has a liability attached to it. It’s important to weigh the cost of refreshing against the cost of the potential liability if existing technology fails and is unavailable.
DS: There is another line in the sand that companies need to draw. They need to decide how they will refresh – what type of expertise is required to select the new technology and migrate it effectively. There is nothing worse than being in limbo in the midst of a transition, where the old technology has been retired and the new technology isn’t functioning properly. It’s a nightmare scenario that can be avoided by being honest about what you can do in house and what requires external expertise.
Q: What does it really mean to draw a line in the sand for tech refresh?
DS: In this case, the line in the sand means achieving balance. Nathan referenced it earlier – finding the balance between the risk of doing nothing and the investment in proactive replacement. There is a cost and liability for both. It’s important to weigh your options and decide on the best course of action.
NR: The decision to do nothing is a valid decision. However, it can also be risky in the long term. Once a company defers the tech refresh once, it becomes easier to defer it again. And risk increases with every deferral, along with a false sense of security. A year goes by and nothing happens, so decision makers lose sight of the changing risk profile. Then when there is an eventual failure, everyone panics. Drawing the line in the sand is critical because doing so provides vital insight. Inevitably, real risk and perceived risk may diverge over time. So it’s best to act before the line erodes to the point that it becomes a chasm that’s challenging and painful to traverse.
Next up: Nathan and David discuss drawing your IT management lines in the sand for cloud.