3 Proven IT Tips for No-Risk Technology Upgrades

By Caroline Galler, Technical Project Coordinator Service Delivery, One Source

With the impact of the pandemic on business, it has become necessary for IT leaders to react with critical technology upgrades to support the long-term pivot of a remote workforce yet still deliver IT Services with timely efficiency.  Now more than ever, they are expected to juggle and manage several new initiatives with a limited team which is always a daunting task. There are several moving parts and things can go wrong, potentially leading to downtime for an organization’s locations. Below are 3 proven strategies that you need to ensure successful technology upgrades while avoiding risk to your organization and timeline:

  1. Upgrading your service
    • POTS and DSL may no longer be installed. Many carriers are no longer installing DSO or copper products such as POTS and DSL. So how do you know what cabling infrastructure is in your area and, subsequently, which carriers to look at? Many managed service providers, such as One Source, have tools that can check serviceability and carriers in a specific area. However, not everyone has access to these tools. The easiest way to find out what you need is to find out what your neighbors have. Find out what the phone number is of an organization in your area and simply use Google to find out who the carrier is! This will give you an idea as to what carriers are in your area. But keep in mind, while your neighbor is using a specific carrier, that doesn’t guarantee that same carrier will be able to service your location. Another option is to call a carrier in the area and request a site survey. Most carriers will need to key an order to do this and that’s okay! If that carrier is unable to install services for whatever reason you will not be held accountable for any contract or service. The carrier representative will be able to tell if the area your location is in has fiber, coax or copper infrastructure. These survey results will help give you an idea as to what sort of timeline you should expect and plan for with your upgrade.
    • Make sure your equipment supports your upgrade. Confirm that the carrier’s modem or router that is on-site is capable of the new, upgraded speed. This can be as easy checking the make and model of the gear on-site or contacting the carrier’s technical support for that information. From there you can look it up in a simple Google search what the equipment on-site is capable of and whether it can support the upgrade that is planned. Additionally, it is important to make sure everything is set up correctly to be able to get the most out of the new upgrade. For example, with Meraki, traffic shaping rules need to be adjusted to be able to use the additional bandwidth.
    • Impact of upgrades on alarm systems. Every system and company is different, but you can check with your alarm company or the maker of the system you have and find out what impact you can expect. For example, a lot of older systems struggle or cannot operate when a site goes from a plain phone to a coax cable phone because of the analog to digital signal change. Furthermore, be familiar with compliance in your state to ensure the upgrade will not disrupt your alarm’s complying. Compliance is mainly a concern for emergency lines (such as pool and elevator lines). Most security and alarm systems don’t tend to have state regulations. The main thing to keep in mind here is emergency lines must have call capability if there is a power loss, so they cannot be coax. This is when wireless lines can become an option (if your state allows).
  2. Project Planning
    • Most important aspects. The first thing to determine is the most important aspects of the project to you, your team, and stakeholders. Each business is unique so not every single plan is going to look the same for every site or client. Some projects are completely based on sites being converted to a new system like POS or SD-WAN gear, where others are not. Determine with your stakeholders if success is defined by completed numbers, savings or pre-determined sites each quarter.
    • Project managing without being the expert. There is no way to be the expert of all aspects in a project. While it can be daunting to discuss specific equipment, tasks or products, its crucial to accept your role and be confident in delivering information to your team or other individuals involved. Familiarize yourself with what you are doing. If you are overseeing SD-WAN deployment and you don’t know what that looks like you can find out! Read up on the matter, look at industry blogs, find a colleague that is knowledgeable in the area or talk to an outside vendor that can be your subject matter expert. You don’t need to be an expert and sometimes it is easier as a novice, as many individuals are passionate about what they do and will be glad to explain it.
    • Approaching challenges. With every project, problems will arise. However, challenges lead to opportunities. You have an opportunity to determine resolution or a protocol to mitigate future situations. Be as objective as possible and always support your colleagues and stakeholders involved. Do not enter the “blame game” but feel empowered to honestly assess the situation and determine what improvements can be made. If you have a risk log, check to see if the problem that occurred was something that was identified at the beginning of the project planning process. If so, this can help determine what the next steps are and may not be as damaging as you initially thought the problem was. All in all, identify exactly what the problem is and talk with your team to determine exactly what occurred. Treat it as a “lessons learned” and be sure that you keep an objective atmosphere.
  3. Clear Communication
    • Open discussion. One of the most effective communication strategies is open discussion and can be the largest contributing factor to ensure that a project goes smoothly. Utilize calendar and meeting time to communicate with your team or clients. This prevents small issues from snowballing into something much larger as it gives allocated time for everyone to talk things through and get aligned. Send an agenda, if applicable, and allow all parties to talk through any questions they may have. Additionally, follow up meetings with a recap that includes action items and deliverables. This allows you to confirm with all involved that everyone is on the same page and gives a written timeline and notes for future projects or for record keeping purposes. No notes is tantamount to not existing. If you expect something, ask for it and record the ask in written form.
    • Volume of information. Don’t get overwhelmed with the volume of information and communication involved in a project. Break it down or write it down. Schedule time for yourself to take a second to stop and triage the events. Additionally, work and action flows can be helpful. You can utilize reports or email updates that you can automate to help you communicate internally. Lastly, brainstorm and talk about it with a colleague if you need to adjust your approach or look at the project through a different lens.
    • Set realistic expectations. Determine what series of events must happen and determine how long they should take. You can create a timeline based on known carrier order intervals or how long it will take your team to cable the number of stores. Ensure you let your stakeholders know how each task and date impacts the overall goal. It’s important to provide factual dates, not dates that look great on paper but are unlikely to be realistic. On the opposite side, don’t add an extremely large amount of time when it cannot be substantiated. Be honest about the ability to hit these targets and advise if you are seeing an unusual delay. It is easier for you to be proactive versus reactive.

Technology upgrades can help keep your business productive, efficient and give you a leg up on your competitors. With careful planning, coordination and deployment, you’ll ensure your organization experiences no service outages or unnecessary overlaps during installations, so your technology infrastructure upgrades work for you, not against you.

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