The Cost of Inaction: How aging technology can impact your business
Written by Keith Brooks, RSM
Technology is evolving rapidly, and accelerating the aging process of your infrastructure. Advances in areas such as mobility and virtualization are changing the way people work and how they shop for products and services, and your infrastructure must keep pace. There is nothing companies can do to slow change, but you can take advantage of innovation to increase your efficiency and revenue.
Organizations have delayed implementing new infrastructure for multiple reasons. Many companies made significant investments to implement new servers (often following the recession), and planned for hardware to remain in place for 10-15 years. Those initiatives took considerable effort, and companies do not look forward to repeating that expense and organizational challenge.
In addition, some organizations that have aging legacy infrastructure and applications utilize very specific industry platforms. Implementing new technology is not just a matter of installing the new infrastructure, but also about the time and investment to integrate the industry solutions. In other situations, companies are simply comfortable with their current technology and avoid change and risks of disturbing existing processes.
Generally, organizations have a measure of fear, uncertainty and doubt when it comes to new technology. Users become attached to systems and processes, and stakeholders have a lasting memory of challenges involved with moving to new physical servers and transferring data to a different platform in the past. However, with the evolution of virtualization and cloud platforms, new technology is stable and secure, and implementation pains have been significantly reduced.
Unfortunately, time stands still for nobody, and technology will continue to advance as aging infrastructure breaks down with potentially significant consequences. The issues can involve expanding customer expectations, increased maintenance costs or service issues, or potential destructive failures and catastrophic outages. If you struggle with outdated technology platforms, you must evaluate your infrastructure and needs, and consider implementing new technology before there is no choice.
You can, and should, operate your technology as long as it meets business needs and remains stable. However, technology infrastructure is like a car; eventually, it is going to break down. Maintenance costs grow, and it becomes difficult and costly to repair platforms and get them back to an operational state.
Utilizing dated systems can have a significant effect on your organization’s competitiveness. The business landscape has changed, as we have become a very mobile economy and interface with IT systems on a constant basis. In this technologically advanced marketplace, customers now expect an interactive experience. However, if you are on a 10-year-old infrastructure, you may not be able to deliver that experience, and customers will eventually turn to a competitor.
As a society, we are data hungry; we have constant connectivity through smartphones, and organizations must have the ability to transmit data to users and customers. In addition, older systems often do not allow for an agile and mobile workforce that is always connected. These platforms simply are not equipped to handle that level of connectivity and access, so when employees step away from their desks, they lose connection with customers and the opportunity to expand the business.
In addition to lost productivity and business opportunities, older technology also presents a security risk. Older hardware can fail, and software is just as volatile, resulting in potential security flaws and exposed data. If you are vulnerable, someone will take advantage of you.
Organizations understandably think of past technology implementation pain and how much new technology may cost. However, you also must consider how inefficiency and lost productivity could be even more costly. You must find a balance of how well your technology performs as it ages, and what you can sustain until value starts degrading.
To get your technology framework back on track, you need to undergo an assessment of your environment, evaluating what physically operates within your organization and infrastructure, but also your specific business needs. Measure your needs against your existing technology, its current state and how it operates, and where it needs to be in the future. You must take a business-first approach, or you tend to lose sight of the true requirements for technology platforms.
Creating an infrastructure plan without considering the business needs can keep you from running your organization in a profitable manner. The starting point is discussing the business needs and operations with leaders and key stakeholders. Then, determine whether your systems truly align with what you do. Do they fit what you need and bring you the most value? In many cases, technology systems do not align as well as they should. That critical conversation can help to develop an action plan to encourage alignment.
In some cases, companies may jump to upgrade everything, but that may not be necessary. You must know what you really need to optimize your technology investments. There are so many new technologies available to help you increase access and connectivity. In many cases, it’s not hard to find systems and infrastructure that fit your individual business needs, but choosing the right platforms can be a challenge without the right knowledge and experience.
New technology can help you save money, become more efficient and better serve your clients, but you have several options. You can build platforms in-house, outsource technology or design a strategy with a combination of both, depending on what fits. Cost is not as much of a limiting factor as it was in the past, as technology such as the cloud has brought a higher level of performance and scalability at a much more affordable price.
Technology is a key differentiator for your business; providing the experience that your users and customers expect and require is important to drive additional value. However, that process becomes more difficult as the technology cycle accelerates, introducing new features and functionality, but also hastening the aging of current platforms. Leveraging the right resources to assess your technology environment and implement change can mean the difference between technology supporting, or hampering, your organizational success.