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Does Your Technology “Fit” Your Needs?
By Implementing a “Life-Cycle” Process, It Will

by Charles L. Nault

 
       
   

How reliable is your company’s technology network? How can you be sure you have installed the right system for your needs in the first place, and that it will keep working for you, day and night, warding off viruses, breakdowns and other threats or dangers? And if your system doesn’t appear to be all it should be, how can you stanch the “bleeding” of your company’s money in lost productivity?

If these questions concern you—and they should--you must begin to create real efficiency within your technology by implementing a successful “life-cycle.” This life-cycle starts with planning its existence and 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 your 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:

1. Assess. You begin with assessing where you are. When your Technology Council decides you need a particular technology, or when you realize that you need an upgrade to any portion of your infrastructure or that you need to add to it, your very first step is to determine the current condition of your network and the ability to incorporate the new technology into it. If you are one of the few companies that have precise, detailed documentation, this step should be relatively easy. If not, you’ll want to hire an outside firm to do the assessment.

In any case you must thoroughly document the current state of your network with a view toward analyzing the impact of this new technology on existing performance. And you’ll need a full report on all other parts of the network that will need to be changed or upgraded during the implementation process too, to support the new technology.

2. Implement. With a thorough assessment in hand, you can now work towards the most complicated phase of the cycle, implementation. It’s impossible to overstress the planning phase of the implementation process and I’ve seen many people do this. But even when you give implementation its due, please be advised that things will go wrong during implementation, so be prepared: you are going to bleed a bit here in all but the rarest instances!  The question is only how badly and for how long.

Your assessment will have a dramatic impact on implementation and how painful it is.  Planning effectively includes a detailed, documented project plan which I strongly suggest so that your team can construct and execute the project plan with success. The leader of the team must be a certified and experienced project manager with a proven track record, and another key person will be the technical director, someone experienced in implementing this particular technology.

There should also be a representative of the users of the technology on the team, someone responsible for ongoing support once the technology is up and running. This piece is, amazingly, often left out!

3. Train.   Training your IT staff is vital. If this is the first time your staff has seen this technology, an introductory training must take place before the technology is implemented. Do not just send an IT person to a training session on new technology and then ask them to implement it on their network. Although that is the norm, it’s just asking for trouble.

Instead, you need a technical director with prior experience at implementing the technology. Require training here too, during implementation, and have this experienced TD do some over-the-shoulder training with those unfamiliar with the technology, especially those who will have to perform ongoing support. Finally, make sure you train the users of the new technology as well.

While keeping things simple, you should also include some very basic troubleshooting and information-gathering that users can perform should they run into trouble. Your objective should always be to get the user back to full production mode as quickly as possible. I also strongly suggest that you sit through the presentation yourself to make sure it’s presented in a way that the average Joe or Jane can fully understand it.

4. Support. Support for the new technology, once implemented, is the only way to assure the optimal return on your investment. My firm recognizes and provides two important levels of support: 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 either by staff that a condition exists to which you must react. This may be a “down” condition that is already causing some bleeding, or as discussed above, it may be something you need to react to in order to prevent down time. In either case, you must react.

5. Review. The final phase of your life cycle process involves the constant review of your technology. This also is multi-faceted, so here’s what you should review and who should review it:

  1. Network Performance. Should be reviewed on a quarterly basis by senior management. This should produce a high level report viewed by senior management which your pro-active monitoring tool or provider supplies, to include:

    1. General network performance and total downtime
    2. The number of trouble tickets and mean time to resolve them
    3. Any major outages affecting more than 10 percent of users, number of users affected, duration of the outage
    4. Existing conditions that require additional investment to prevent performance degradation.
    5. Any network security issues

  2. User Satisfaction. What gets measured gets attention. Measure this, and be sure that your senior management views the results every six months.

  3. Technology Advancements. Your technology council should meet on a quarterly basis to discuss emerging technologies that could accelerate your company’s performance.

If you follow the life-cycle process--assess, implement, train, support, and review---the only time you should experience an outage in your technology network will be when you determine it is likely to have the least impact on your business. Try to imagine that for a minute: a fully redundant, resilient, self-healing network that’s neverNOT working whenever your employees are. No bleeding, no lost profits. Your technology fits.


       
   
 
       
   

The Author

Charles Nault

Risk-Free Technology

Charles L. Nault is author of the new book “Risk-Free Technology: A Simple Non-Technical Business Owner’s Guide to Stemming Huge Productivity Losses from Poor Performing Computer Systems” (Global Professional Publishing) and Chairman of the Board at Atrion Networking Corporation. A recognized expert in “network utility thinking,” his firm provides training and consulting to companies in addition to working closely with Cisco Systems on network design, implementations and support.

He can be reached at 401-736-6400 ext. 111 or cnault@atrion.net or by visiting http://riskfreetechnology.com/

 
       
   
 
       
   
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Copyright 2009 by Charles L. Nault . All rights reserved.

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