12 Best Practices CIOs Need To Know In Order To Be Able To Make Old IT Systems New Again

Image CreditIt takes more than a coat of paint to make old IT systems new again
It takes more than a coat of paint to make old IT systems new again

No CIO wants to have a project fail. That’s why when it comes time to do something about older IT systems, replace or renew them, most CIOs have to take time to think about what they really want to do. This is the kind of project that is going to require both the IT department and the rest of the business to work together. What you may not know is that its eventual success or failure rides on decisions that you make before the project even starts…

The Right Place To Start

When it comes to taking on a big IT system overhaul project, CIOs need to determine where the right place to start is. Nothing in the definition of information technology tells us what the answer to this question is. All too often we can decide that choosing the right technology or the right vendor to go with is where we’d feel the most comfortable starting. However, we’d be wrong.

Instead, the experts tell us that the right place for a CIO to start a big project like this is to create a business plan. The reason for taking the time to do this step is because then you’ll have a understanding of just exactly what change you are planning on making.

A side benefit of creating a business plan for your next IT system change before you start it is that it will help to make sure that both IT and the other departments that are going to be impacted have their goals aligned.

All too often in the IT sector, a CIO will undertake these types of large IT projects simply because they want to implement a new technology. Instead, you need to look at the project as being a business-driven project that has IT support, not an IT project being done for technology refresh reasons.

Steps To Success

In order for a major IT upgrade project to be a success, often it’s the things that we do that will prevent it from being a failure that count the most. This can include such small details as upgrading to the latest release of the software.

Another way to ensure the upgrade project’s success is to take the time to identify the limitations of the existing system that the upgrade is designed to resolve. This can involve determining what functions the current solution provides to the departments that use it. You’ll also have to determine where the gaps are and what future changes everyone is already aware of.

Keeping a firm eye on the future is one thing that the CIO can do in order to ensure the success of the upgrade project. What this boils down to is making sure that you have a good understanding of the future capabilities that the company is going to need and that the solution that is being put in place will be able to deliver these.

12 Best Practices For Replacing Older IT Systems

CIOs who have successfully replaced older IT systems have learned a lot from the experience. Here are 12 suggestions that they have for the rest of us in order to boost the chances that our project will end up being successful:

  1. Make sure that you clean your corporate data before you start your project.
  2. Make sure that you both set a schedule for the project and that you stick with it.
  3. Create a high-level decision-making body who can arbitrate issues when then come up (and they will come up!)
  4. Use a guinea pig to test out new changes.
  5. Create a reusable blueprint for the project – you’ll be doing this again in the future.
  6. Don’t try to do everything at once. You can’t and you won’t.
  7. Create small subprojects that you can complete along the way so that you can show the rest of the company that you are making progress.
  8. Expect time and cost overruns and budget accordingly.
  9. Try to retain your existing IT employees even if you are changing the platform that they’ve been trained to use. In the end, this will always turn out to be the cheaper option.
  10. Make sure that there are no surprises by having the end users practice using the new system before the big official rollout.
  11. Manage the migration strictly – stay away from project feature creep.
  12. Be prepared to quickly fix any glitches that happen along the way.

What All Of This Means For You

Not all of what a CIO does has to do with new IT systems. We all know about the importance of information technology and IT has become important because of the systems that have been in place for quite some time. Many times older IT systems need to be evaluated in order to see if they should be upgraded or replaced. These are big projects that come with a lot of risk for the CIO.

What’s done before the project starts can determine its outcome. These types of projects always need to start with a business case in order to make sure that everyone understands why they are being done. What the outcome of the project is also needs to be fully understood. Finally, you are going to need to have a plan that you’re going to be able to stick with that will guide the project.

Changes to a major IT system don’t have to spell doom for a CIO’s career. Understand that many of the decisions that you make before the project even starts can often determine its outcome. Take the time to do all of the work that you need to do upfront and you’ll be able to accomplish even the biggest changes to your older IT systems.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Department Leadership Skills™

Question For You: How soon after a big IT legacy system project starts do you think that the rest of the company is going to want to be able to see results?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Cloud computing is all the rage in every IT department these days. Just about every CIO is racing from meeting to meeting in which plans for moving even more of the company’s IT applications into “the cloud” is being planned. However, it turns out that since cloud computing is still so new, not all of the details have been worked out by the IT sector yet. That’s why there are some very important questions that CIOs need to be asking…