If you are a company or IT director and feel that your IT is in need of a major overhaul – whether you want to improve internal systems because they have become out of date and newer ones would offer huge benefits, or you need to add new core IT to support new strategies you have planned – you need to plan making these kinds of changes very carefully. Choosing the wrong products, having systems down at bad times due to upgrades or implementations, or having teething problems with new systems can all be disastrous, and of course, there is also the danger that without good planning your new IT won’t be used properly even if it works perfectly.
Whether you are changing internal systems like your networks, or customer facing things like your SAP ecommerce platform, you need to have a clear idea of the impact of the change, how it will be effected, and how any risks will be mitigated. You also need to consider any business processes that will need to change to make best use of the systems, and any training your teams may need.
One of the most important things when planning any major IT change is to properly evaluate the products available that offer what you are looking for, and choose one that offers a good level of cost effectiveness as well as being fit for purpose. Carrying out these kinds of evaluations is usually something you’ll want someone senior in your IT department to do, however when they are meeting with vendors to arrange trials or demonstrations it is usually a good idea to be present or have your financial director there in case discussions about pricing come up that your IT management may not be comfortable having.
IT rollouts are best done when they can cause the least disruption. For internal systems an implementation overnight or at a weekend can be the best option, though if you don’t have staffing in place to work out of hours on this kind of thing then the summer holiday period can be the best time to do these things during office hours, as this tends to be when business is quietest. For customer facing systems like ecommerce sites that need to be up 24/7, scheduling needs to be carefully thought through so downtime is minimised.
Your IT department will need to have a test plan in place to check things are working properly after the implementations or upgrades, and you should ensure you have signed off on these and are comfortable with them and run sufficient tests to verify things before people can start using them.
Have an assessment done on whether or not anybody will need training to use the new systems or whether your IT team need product training to help maintain them. If the answer is no, then it is still a good idea to put together good documentation to send out to anyone who will see changes telling them more about them.
Planning an IT change can be more involved than you think, so when a need has been identified, allow time to put a good plan in place.