By Neal Williams, Regional Sales Manager, cStor
Change has always been difficult for people. Our fear of the unknown often stops us from finding the clarity and confidence we need to move forward, especially when things are changing so quickly around us. Yet without change, competitors can quickly overtake you, so staying on top of innovation is a critical component of any successful business.
It is an amazing time to witness in history because the pace at which IT innovation is advancing is nothing short of astounding. But for many businesses, the rapid evolution of cloud, mobile, data center and security technologies are shaking their very foundation, and they suddenly find themselves caught between sticking with the status quo and taking a leap of faith.
Pros and Cons of the Status Quo
Depending on how complex your IT systems are, your aversion to risk will vary. I often discuss with clients the pros and cons of sticking with the status quo. On the pros side of that approach:
- You know what you have today works and, for the most part, is delivering the data, security and access users need, when and where they need them. So even if the systems are outdated, you understand them, you know how everything is connected, where it’s stored, etc.
- You know the system’s strengths and weaknesses, and in cases where it falls short, you likely have decent ‘work-arounds’ to get the job done.
- You know you have the resources, internal and external, to support and maintain the systems. And when something goes wrong, in most cases, you know what and how to deploy the fix.
- You have a ‘known entity’ in terms of time and budget. You know what it costs to maintain and operate systems and can accurately estimate what the change management cycle will look like.
So, even if it’s a complex legacy system, it’s still (as they say!) “the devil you know.”
On the cons of sticking with the status quo, however:
- Virtually no companies operate in a vacuum. Business doesn’t continue to come without strategy and effort. Most companies face constantly changing customer needs, competitors and other industry dynamics that force them to face change in order to effectively compete.
- You may be forced to implement something new if your current technologies have reached their end of life and manufacturers / providers are no longer supporting them.
- You may be missing incredible opportunity to take advantage of new technologies that could change the game in your industry, catapult you ahead of the competition and/or better position you for the next stage of your growth strategy.
- Your current systems may not integrate with newer systems that are necessary to advance the business.
According to The Project Management Institute’s 2017 Pulse of the Profession study, 28 percent of the strategic initiatives overseen by project management and IT professionals were deemed ‘outright failures.’ And, according to CIO, some 37 percent of IT professionals surveyed cited a lack of clearly defined and/or achievable milestones and objectives were causes of the failure, followed by poor communication (19%), lack of senior management communication (18%), employee resistance (14%) and insufficient funding (9%).
The same report uncovered that due to poor IT project performance, organizations wasted an average of $97 million for every $1 billion invested in them. Unfortunately, such failures result in multiple layers of waste in the form of money and time, two variables few companies have the luxury of being able to waste.
Implementing IT Change
While this all may not sound like good news, fortunately as IT consultants, we’ve found a number of keys to this formula. So here are some proven ways to discover, test and implement technology and IT change that will directly improve business outcomes while mitigating your risk along the way.
1. No risk. No reward. You can’t expect your customers and competitors not to change, so why believe you won’t have to change to stay efficient, productive and relevant? Deciding not to change simply to avoid future risk is a recipe for disaster, sooner or later. Clients that adopt a culture and mindset that embraces change and innovation are most often able to get ahead and stay ahead.
2. POCs offer insight without the risk. Guessing games and subjective opinions have no place in the technology world, not at this stage of our innovation evolution. We collaborate with clients to uncover the best potential options based on their unique infrastructure, operational processes and business goals, but without putting a potential solution to the test, it’s impossible to know if it could have been a ‘game changer.’
Some identical solutions that outwardly appear to be used in very similar environments work for some clients and not others. Without a low-risk POC (think “new technology, sandbox environment, real client data”), there’s no way for anyone on the planet to know the outcome.
3. The collective IT community can add tremendous value… but only if you’re willing to ask. Time and again, clients approach us for our insight and expertise on potential new technologies. Our mission is to keep a pulse on the industry and technology so we’re able to bring that collective learning to clients in an unbiased way. It’s amazing to see how willing IT leaders are to share their experiences with other companies (non-competitors, of course), yet we also see very few clients take the time to contact other IT professionals about their experiences. While cStor brings that collective knowledge to our clients as a trusted advisor, talking to your peers can often be even more impactful.
In one particular case, a client was ready to refresh its server technology, so our team collaborated closely with them to build an exhaustive list of requirements. We then found five potential suppliers that fit the bill, two of which were quickly eliminated due to: 1. location (international), and 2. poor operational workflow. We scheduled demos with the remaining three, which easily eliminated one more. The final two were put into a POC for sixty days, side by side, including one ‘incumbent’ vendor and one ‘newby.’
Although the client wasn’t unhappy with the incumbent, they didn’t know what they didn’t know. This two-month POC let them prove out the validity of their current vendor and solution and test a new player in the mix. Ultimately, the client purchased from the incumbent because the POC data was nearly a dead heat. Getting management to sign off and budget approval became far easier, because the IT team was able to easily justify their original technology choice and why that technology was the right choice for the next generation of products.
So, take these keys to heart and evaluate your IT culture and mindset. Are you focused on embracing change for all the right reasons, or staying in fear of the unknown? As always, we’re here to help you navigate the change with clarity and confidence.