Bob CoppedgeDefinitions:

  • ObsoleteNo longer produced or used; out of date.  Outmoded in design, style, or construction.
  • Obsolete (manufacturing):  Doesn’t draw power when you power it on.  Alternately, sparks/flames/smoke bellow out when you power it on.

A lot of companies faced the past several years of economic uncertainty (a polite enough word, no?) by tightening their collective belts.  From the IT standpoint, that meant:

  • No updates to applications (let alone new applications)
  • No replacement of older hardware
  • No training of employees technology
  • Cutting back on technology staffing
  • No training of technology staffing

And that was great the standpoint of cutting costs. The problem comes later. As in now. Now that a lot of companies are coming out of that cycle, they find themselves in a dilemma. By cutting back on these expenses that might have helped the bottom line, but it makes it difficult to grow moving forward either in terms of volume of business or new types of business.

We’re seeing a lot of companies, particularly manufacturing, that are facing this issue. The challenges include:

  • Obsolete applications (in particular ones that are supported by the applications author anymore)
  • Obsolete software.  Some examples include:
    • Windows XP, which lost all Microsoft support in 2014
    • Windows Server 2003, which loses support in July 2015
    • Windows SQL Server 2005, which loses support in 2016
    • Failing hardware (and out of warranty hardware)
    • Insufficient security
    • Inconsistent or nonexistent standards
    • Different versions of software (several versions of Microsoft office, for example)
    • Systems that only work because of manual processes that only a couple of people truly understand

Needless to say this is a situation that companies need to get out of in order to be able to grow. But how to do this? Actually there’s been a lot of attention paid to this process, and a lot of vendors out there willing to take your money (remember the consultants’ credo: “Your check is our command”).

And do we have to upgrade everything?  It’s a tough sell to go out and replace a perfectly working shop floor device for $30,000 because you’re told a $600 computer that works perfectly well needs to be replaced.

Here’s the first question. And it’s an important one. And it’s one that you as a business owner or business management must absolutely understand.

“Where are you now and what do you have?”

It’s absolutely critical that you have a good idea of where you currently are in terms of the health of your IT infrastructure. Not from the geeky bits and bytes standpoint, but what are the strengths, what are the vulnerabilities and where are the opportunities as they relate to both where your business is and where your business wants to go. If you don’t understand that then you’re abdicating that knowledge and the value of that knowledge to either your internal IT staff or an IT consulting firm. Neither of which have your perspective, your priorities, nor your understanding of the business.

So how do you go about answering that important question? Actually is fairly simple. Ask someone who is capable of answering. Insist on an answer. And listen to the answer.

So what constitutes a good answer to this question? We refer to these as a Network Audit and  and an application Application Audit. Some of the key ingredients include:

  • Inventory of equipment, including age, warranty status, health concerns
  • Inventory of software applications
  • Review of outstanding trouble issues
  • Comparison of status quo to best practices
  • Identification of critical business applications and out of date they are
  • Critical knowledge that is not documented or shared
  • Review of security (including protection against viruses and malware)
  • Review of backups
  • Review of testing of backups
  • At least a conversation about Business Continuity/Disaster Recovery
  • at least a conversation about new business practices and opportunities and whether IT can support them

Many IT companies, including Simplex-IT offer these services, often at a reduced rate (or even free, hint-– hint) as a way to introduce themselves to other organizations.  Make sure when you talk to these vendors that their goal is not to generate additional business, but to actually answer the critical question. These companies should understand that the better that they answer these questions the more that there demonstrating their value to you and your organization.

Next month:  Got that answered, now what?

I’d love to get your feedback.  Email me with your comments at Bob@Simplex-IT.com.

See ya next month.