A few weeks ago we published an article called 13 IT Projects to Include in Your Plans for 2013 in which we suggested 13 great IT projects for you to consider; we decided to publish some follow-up articles to help do just that.
Our fifth project suggestion was for Upgrades; here’s what we had to say:
Operating systems, Office suites, firewalls, switches, Wi-Fi devices, storage area networks, servers and workstations… the list of things that will need upgrading in 2013 may be significant. Start thinking about the upgrades you want to do now so you can get them budgeted for 2013, or you may still have to support products that span a decade or more.
With that in mind, here are some tips to help you jump start this project.
Identify what needs to be upgraded
You can limit your project scope to a single thing, like operating systems, but it’s going to be very difficult to only do operating systems without any consideration for hardware, applications, etc. You may be better off starting with a list of everything in your IT organization and then start to categorize it not by type, but rather by timeframe.
Stop deploying legacy immediately
It’s silly and wasteful to deploy new systems that are already going to need upgrading. Sure, that means new employees may get the best stuff first, but you also don’t want to scare away a new hire by handing him/her a 10-year-old system. The moment you decide to upgrade, you need to stop adding to the things you will have to upgrade.
The most important things to upgrade are those that are no longer supported, out of warranty, or cannot meet the requirements of the business. You need to focus on keeping all your equipment under warranty and fully patched against security vulnerabilities. Products, operating systems and applications that have reached end of life put your organization at risk and should be the first to go.
Determine any dependencies
Operating system upgrades may be dependent upon hardware upgrades. Application upgrades may be dependent upon operating system upgrades. All will be dependent upon licensing and budgets. Here’s an example of a commonly encountered dependency. Line of business applications that are built around older Office suites or browsers, and cannot run with the newer ones. I’ve seen many companies still on Windows XP and IE6 because they have an app that won’t work correctly with IE7 (or other browsers). I’ve also seen custom built modules for Word 2003 that won’t work in 2007 or later. You absolutely want to let the support desk team lead this exercise, because they are the only ones in the company who will truly understand what works, or doesn’t, with what.
Determine your budget
The budget will be the most important decision factor for your project. It will determine how many systems can be upgraded in any particular time period. Almost all upgrades will be capital projects though, so make sure you work with finance so the team thinks in terms of years, not operating expenses.
Build and publish a schedule
Most upgrades will cause outages, even if only for a single user at a time. Build a schedule that takes into account critical periods like end of month, quarter and fiscal year, and when you are dealing with operating system, workstation, or application upgrades, has enough flexibility to accommodate vacations and other schedule conflicts. People are also going to want to know when they get the “new stuff”, so save yourself answering countless questions and just go ahead and publish a schedule as soon as you have it.
So now you have some tips to help you get started on upgrades as a project, along with some of the key things to be sure you include to make this project a success. Management sponsorship, project management, and consensus are all every bit as important as the more technical parts, even if they aren’t quite as sexy. Upgrades will impact the entire organization, so it’s in the best interests of the entire company to make sure this is a success. With the tips above, you are in a much better position to make sure it is a success.
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