A Technology Lifecycle to Fit Customer Needs1 Nov, 2011 By: Charles L. Nault imageSource
Okay, just how reliable is your company’s technology network? How about your clients if you are providing them network services? How are you sure that the right system has been installed and that it will keep working efficiently daily, warding off viruses, breakdowns and other threats or dangers? If a system doesn’t appear to be all it should be, how do you stop the “bleeding” of money in lost productivity?
If these concern you—and it should —you must create real efficiency within your technology platform by implementing a successful “life-cycle.” This life-cycle starts with planning its existence, and ultimately ends when the technology is replaced with something new and more effective. A “healthy” life-cycle is achieved when your technology performs to its maximum potential the entire time it is employed to meet the required business needs.
A five-step process for guaranteeing a healthy life-cycle can be implemented if a specific methodology is followed: assess, implement, train, support, and review.
Let’s review each one in depth:
When you or your client realizes that an upgrade or addition to any portion of the infrastructure is needed, the very first step is to determine the current condition of the network and the ability to incorporate the new technology into it. For those companies that already have precise, detailed documentation, this step should be relatively easy. For the many that do not, they’ll want to outsource for an assessment or consultation.
Companies should keep a thorough record of the current state of their network with a view toward analyzing the impact of new technology on existing performance. A full report on all parts of the network is needed as some parts may be changed or upgraded during the implementation process to support the new technology.
With a thorough assessment in hand, a company can then work towards the most complicated phase of the cycle, implementation. It’s impossible to over stress the planning phase of the implementation process. Clients need to be advised that things can alter and
change to find the best fit solutions, so adopting the end result is a process unfolding.
Planning effectively includes a detailed, documented project plan which the provider’s team can construct and execute with success. The best leader of a team is a certified and experienced project manager with a proven track record, while another key person will likely be the technical director or technician, someone experienced in implementing office technology.
There should also be a representative of the users of the technology (client’s primary users) on the team responsible for ongoing support once the technology is up and running. This important action – to introduce the user to the new technology, is sometimes left out! This person is often responsible later for ongoing training of staff on the new equipment, so it can’t be overemphasized how important it is to include key personnel during the initial process.
Providers and suppliers often provide training on the equipment they install. Introductory training can be effective either during, after, or just before the technology is actually implemented. Customers should not just send an IT person to a training session on new technology and expect them to be responsible for its use. Instead, have the (client’s) technical director along with the manager(s) whose department(s) will be utilizing the new program present to train on the new system installed.
Office equipment providers should add to their training some very basic troubleshooting and information-gathering methods to help users should they run into trouble later. The objective should always be to get the user back to full production mode as quickly as possible, before making a service call.
Once implemented, supporting the system is the only way to assure that optimal return on your investment. Two important levels of support are noted: pro-active and re-active. Pro-active support means real-time monitoring that not only identifies if the equipment is working or not working but also if there are conditions affecting the performance of the technology even when not actually taking it down altogether.
Pro-active monitoring tools can tell you if a similar condition is occurring in many different types of networking equipment. The more frequently this condition occurs, the more likely that you’ll need to invest in greater capacity to keep your users happy.
Re-active support of course, is self- explanatory. If you are utilizing pro-active support, you’ll be alerted that a condition exists to which you must react. This may be a “down” condition that is already causing some bleeding, or as discussed, may be something you need to react to in order to prevent down time. In either case, you must react.
The final phase of the life-cycle process involves the constant review of the technology implemented. This is multi-faceted. If your client asks, here is what your client should review and who in their company should review it:
- Network Performance. This should be a quarterly high level report viewed by senior management. A pro-active monitoring tool or you, the provider, can supply this and should include:
- General network performance and total downtime
- The number of trouble tickets and mean time to resolve them
- Major outages affecting more than 10%of users; number affected, duration
- Conditions requiring extra investment to prevent performance degradation
- Any network security issues
- User Satisfaction. What gets measured gets attention. Client measures this every six months for senior management updates.
- Technology Advancements. Client should meet on a quarterly basis to discuss emerging technologies that could accelerate their company’s performance. Provider should encourage this, of course.
In summary, the life-cycle process is simple: assess, implement, train, support, and review. As the provider, you want your clients’ to assume a fully redundant, resilient, self-healing network that works. No bleeding, no lost profits. The technology fits their lifecycle needs.
Charles L. Nault is author of “Risk-Free Technology: A Simple Non-Technical Business Owner’s Guide to Stemming Huge Productivity Losses from Poor Performing Computer Systems.” He’s Chairman of the Board at Atrion Networking Corp. At firstname.lastname@example.org or www.riskfreetechnology.com