Each time a business implements a new IT system, that system is expected to efficiently perform the role it was designed for. However, unless that implementation is well thought out, planned properly, and executed carefully, the gap between what your business expected and what reality has delivered could be huge.
Here’s 7 tips that will help you and your business ensure that new IT systems work according to expectations:
What, exactly, is the system going to do?
Specifics matter. It’s crucial to the success of any IT system that a business clearly identifies what needs to achieve before they design and implement it. Collect insights from everyone who’ll be using this new system, not just the management requesting it.
Avoid vagaries such as “a faster web server.” What exactly, in measurable terms, is needed? For instance, “we need a web server that can achieve an average response time of x.” is much more tangible.
If you’re replacing an existing system, collect information about what you have right now. What’s currently working well? What’s not? This will inform the requirements of anything new that’s likely to replace your current IT system.
A secure system is not an option, it’s a primary consideration. To avoid your brand-new system becoming a target for hackers, you need to know the basic security design principles related to your venture. In section 3 of Jerry Saltzer and Michael Schroeder’s paper “The Protection of Information in Computer Systems“ are eight of the most cited principles on designing a secure system. The most famous of which is the concept of least privilege. Other experts expand on these such as Gary McGraw 13 principles to follow when designing a new system.
Knowing basic design principles isn’t always enough. It’s important to understand the dangers inherent to the type of system being implemented. For example, in a database system, do you understand how hackers commonly attack databases? What are the best security measures you can include to help mitigate those risks?
If you’re unsure, or confused, or doubtful of your security knowledge, consider getting assistance. As McGraw points out, “Don’t feel bad about asking for help; this stuff is tricky”.
Clean up before, not after
Rolling over excess baggage to a new system makes it less efficient and effective. Before you bring in anything new, clean up the old associated processes and any relevant data. Review your workflows to see what can be streamlined. Archive or remove any duplicated or obsolete data.
Test test test
Even the simplest of systems needs to be thoroughly tested before it is implemented. And done so in an environment that closely resembles the one in which it will be working.
Not doing so leaves the system open to falling short of satisfying the functional and technical requirements you expected it would meet. Thorough testing will also reveal any integration issues for existing processes or systems.
If any issues are discovered during the testing, they need to be addressed. Once fixed, the system should be retested.
Train your people well
Given what’s involved in implementing new IT systems, the human factor can often be taken for granted. The improper use, or the under-utilisation of a system will lead to less-than-optimal results. Ensure you train employees on how to use it, and always try to include a hands-on element. Consider incorporating the new system into the appropriate policies (e.g., acceptance use policy).
And consider people outside your company. If you’re deploying a new supplier relationship management (SRM) system, include some how-to videos so suppliers know how to use the system.
Set realistic timelines
An unrealistic deadline leads to disappointing results. Pressure upon your people could lead them to take shortcuts. Or worse, rush their work and create further problems.
Setting an unrealistic deadline is never done intentionally. They come about because a business failed to realise the work required, or they were simply far too optimistic.
To start off well, design a schedule that includes ample time to identify its functional and technical requirements, clean house, test the system, train employees, and carry out any other actions that are identified along the way.
Plan for disasters
Murphy’s Law is alive and well and needs to be included in your plan. Your new system might run fine for a while, but then the hardware it runs on might fail. Perhaps you left a security door open and a zero-day attack locked up all your systems
Remember to include the simple things, like adding your new system to your existing backup processes the moment it’s live. Good to know that you can recover the system and its data if a catastrophe occurs.
New IT systems are challenging
The idea of designing and implementing a new IT system can either be exciting, or daunting. There’s so much to consider and do. But we’re here to help you. No matter whether your system is big or small, we can help ensure that it works like you envisioned it.