How leaders can plan for technology refreshes as part of their business strategy

We speak to Bradley Styles, Partner, Management Consulting, KPMG in Singapore on challenges faced by organizations today when it comes to technology refreshes, and why it is critical for leaders to plan them as part of their business strategy

Office is one of the most ubiquitous productivity suites used, and many working professionals rely on apps like Word, PowerPoint, Excel and Outlook for their daily work. However, tell any professional they are on a version of Office that is no longer supported, and you may be greeted with blank stares.

When it comes to approaching technology refreshes, many organizations stick to the mantra of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” It is this principle which has led to organizations relying on legacy software and tools that have resulted in costly and inefficient management of IT systems resulting in a loss of productivity and security. As the end of life for Office 2007 approaches in October 2017, it is high time organizations evaluate their plans for technology refreshes to keep up with productivity requirements in the digital age.

A recent study by Microsoft of over 4,100 mobile professionals in Asia found that while 71% consider themselves mobile workers, only 44% of them feel empowered by their organization to embrace demands of the digital age. 2 in 5 respondents also felt that access to technology for collaboration would also contribute to more productive outcomes in the workplace.

Sticking to Legacy Systems is Bad Business

“Legacy issues will probably pop up a few times in our conversation today. It creates numerous challenges and problems (for organizations),” said Bradley Styles, Partner, Management Consulting for KPMG Singapore. “I think a lot of IT leaders have challenges understanding where technology can be used to help businesses reduce redundancies, or minimize activities that are no longer required.”

Styles notes that organizations holding back on technology refreshes may miss opportunities in engaging customers in the digital age, as well as empowering employees. “If an organization is running old technology, you will see an impact on employees’ satisfaction, and losses in productivity.”

Styles shared a couple of key reasons for organizations sticking to legacy systems:

1. Resistance to change

There is resistance to change, especially among IT leaders and employees who have been working with the same processes and practices for a long period of time. Styles noted that with every refresh, internal processes need to be updated, and these could become teething problems for organizations wanting to shift employees to a newer and more agile platform.

As new solutions are introduced in market within a shortened timeframe, it adds an additional layer of complexity for business and IT leaders to keep up with the upgrade cycle. And with the introduction of a rapid release cycle for products such as Windows and Office, gone are the days of major upgrade cycles, and solutions that are more than three years old are deemed dated.

 

Styles highlighted that organizations adopting a patch approach on their legacy systems are more hesitant to adopt technology refreshes, and it results in some level of fear and conflict when the time comes for an overhaul when end of life approaches for their existing solutions and platforms.

2. Security Concerns

In addition, security concerns also rank high in businesses when it comes to technology refreshes. “There is a misconception that with the cloud, businesses don’t have as much control, and it cannot be tailored to business requirements,” Styles said. Business leaders are also under the perception that information and data stored in the cloud do not belong to them, although Styles noted that Microsoft has done well in addressing such concerns.

Learn more about Microsoft’s efforts in securing and safeguarding data on Office 365 here

Priming Technology Refreshes to Drive Business Value

Styles offers IT teams the following suggestions to foray into refreshing their existing platforms:

1. Outline business benefits of technology refreshes

Ultimately, it is important for IT and business leaders to understand what they want to achieve with technology refreshes. The end of support for Office 2007 is just one of many impetuses for organizations to look at refreshing their existing platforms, but it is crucial for business leaders to understand why and how an upgrade could contribute to business bottom line.

Styles shared that technology refreshes become successful when IT teams build a business case around the need to refresh their current infrastructure. “Leaders who can outline business results by moving legacy systems to a public or hybrid cloud platform are able to achieve more in the long run,” he said.

However, Styles highlighted that one of the key barriers that are holding back technology refreshes within organizations is the inability of business and IT leaders to articulate what needs to be done, and the benefits technology refreshes will bring.

2. Achieve quick wins

There is little patience among leaders to see results over an extended timeframe. Rather, business leaders want to see incremental results and quick wins when new technologies are implemented – whether tangible or intangible. “It is important to break (goals) down into achievable chunks so that you can show progress.”

For example, in the case of moving emails to a cloud-based platform like Office 365, it enables flexibility for employees in accessing their information on any device. More importantly, storage space is no longer a concern for users. In addition, IT teams no longer need to continuously patch ageing email platforms as incremental upgrades are pushed through centrally. This in turn means that organizations can benefit from potential maintenance cost savings, and IT teams can further elevate their roles by focusing on delivering value for the business rather than keeping the lights on.

3. Involve employees in your journey

When it comes to mapping technology refreshes to elevate employee productivity, Styles recommends that business and IT leaders involve them in the journey. Change communication becomes an important portion of introducing technology refreshes within an organization, where it is crucial for leaders to have regular communication and to re-emphasize to employees on the need for and benefits of change. He noted that employees are more receptive and appreciative during deployment when they are kept abreast of changes and the reasons behind new technology deployment, rather than to create an unintended insecurity among employees who may be misled into thinking that their jobs will be replaced with new technology solutions deployed.

“Technology refreshes will deliver financial and productivity benefits, but it is important for leaders to do research and understand the options available in market today. More importantly, it is critical for IT leaders to also reconsider the way IT departments need to be run in today’s digital age.”