COVID-19 Resources

How to Take the Guesswork Out of Making Technology Upgrades in a Pandemic [Plus the Top Three Areas to Consider for Technology Improvement]

Written by Emily Jones, PMP, CABM, MCITP on August 28, 2020

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For most companies doing business today, technology is a crucial tool used to conduct business and make work more efficient.

While businesses are tasked with keeping up with technology’s constant improvements, the coronavirus pandemic introduced its own new challenges and opportunities when it comes to businesses’ technology and IT systems.

As a result, many companies are considering technology in ways they wouldn’t have before, and our recent survey revealed that nearly one-third of the responding companies plan to upgrade their technology as a result of shortfalls that the pandemic uncovered.

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For businesses looking to improve their technology, knowing what to implement or even how to get started can seem overwhelming. Fortunately, understanding where to focus will take the guesswork out of choosing the right technologies to meet new and still-changing business needs.

Access Warren Averett’s full report based on our survey designed to measure how businesses have responded to the coronavirus pandemic here.

Overarching Considerations for Technology Improvement and Upgrades

Evaluating IT infrastructure in the face of COVID-19 requires looking closely at the performance of your company’s current system and measuring that against the goals of your business. It’s important to define the business’s objectives, requirements and nice-to-haves and then determine the available offerings against that criteria.

In doing this, companies must keep in mind new work paradigms and the user experience of its teams as they review existing infrastructure, equipment and connectivity. In the wake of the pandemic, your technology needs may take on a slightly different focus than they would have before.

When making decisions about your company’s technical environment, there are a few overarching considerations concerning your specific operations and needs that can help guide you.

Whatever technology is being evaluated, the following topics should be considered to ensure stability in a shifting business landscape.

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  1. Access: Businesses everywhere are re-evaluating remote access for their teams. Companies that had held the position that their teams couldn’t effectively do their work remotely were driven to re-evaluate their thinking.

While many companies don’t plan to permanently leverage remote work, solutions that support secure remote access have proven their value none the less.

What are your business’s goals and needs when it comes to access?

  1. Cost: As companies look to modify their technology, making smart choices regarding costs are always of utmost importance. Remember that making cost-cutting decisions when it comes to technology can ultimately be more expensive in remediation expenses in the long run.
  2. Speed and Flexibility: While COVID-19 uncovered the need to pivot quickly to maintain business continuity, the reality is that modern companies must be prepared to turn on a dime to meet customer expectations and competitor challenges.

Technology improvements that facilitate that agility are useful both during a pandemic and in a fast-paced competitive environment.

How does speed and flexibility play into your business’s operational needs?

Three Key Areas to Consider When Upgrading Your Technology and Infrastructure

Once you’ve identified your access, cost, speed and flexibility requirements, you can make valuable enhancements in your company’s technology. Here are three key areas to consider when evaluating what enhancements to make.

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Evaluate System Infrastructure and Connectivity

Virtual work can put a strain on the existing connectivity and IT infrastructure of a business, especially if those services were designed for centralized access from an on-premise office location.

Even systems that were set up to handle some remote access may not be equipped to manage the sudden influx of multiple virtual users.

Bandwidth and network capacity are a natural starting point for upgrades in today’s business environment. Increased network capacity or redundant connectivity may be worth investigating for businesses with mission-critical access needs and little tolerance for downtime. Expanded bandwidth may be called for with an increased volume of real-time collaboration tools, videoconferencing and messaging applications.

Speed and access can also be hindered by aging system infrastructure. Current servers may not be able to scale to meet the increased demand from a broader user base. The wrong size equipment in your system infrastructure can also degrade any improvements you’ve made in bandwidth, meaning your company won’t be able to reap the benefits from the larger capacity.

It’s important to look at the entire infrastructure and make sure it matches the goals you are trying to achieve. Companies should be careful of chasing new, shiny IT architecture options. Making changes like these may solve some problems for your business while creating others if not done correctly.

Evaluate the Need for New and Updated Equipment

For some employees, picking up and working from their homes was a simple change. For others, the shift to remote work was more dramatic.

Some companies had to scramble to find enough laptops for their teams, and phone systems quickly became a challenge.

When looking to upgrade computer equipment and communication devices, companies must ask a few important questions to evaluate their own priorities:

  • What do employees need to be productive?
  • Is remote access needed on a consistent or an as-needed basis?
  • How many people need new or upgraded equipment?

For instance, business analysts who have been running computationally intensive statistical models on desktop computers would likely need equally powerful laptops capable of meeting the demands of their work, while an administrative team member hardly needs the same kind of power from a workstation.

Yet, the reverse may be true when it comes to communication. The business analyst may have minimal needs when it comes to video conferencing or remote access to a business phone, while an administrative team member may rely heavily on phone or video calls to maintain communication with other employees and vendors.

Evaluations of equipment, communication and telephone requirements can be easily addressed with the creation of work profiles or work use cases.

Like customer personas, a work use case details the needs and expectations of a generic role within the company to define the technology required to effectively do the job. Those requirements can then be mapped to available equipment, gaps can be identified, and purchases can be focused on the technology that would enable effective job performance.

Consider the Cloud

It’s not always clear what cloud services a company should consider, and many business leaders even question what the Cloud is and how it can benefit their organizations.

The Cloud has revolutionized how businesses utilize computing resources, and it’s definitely something to consider if you’re looking to upgrade your company’s technology.

The most attractive benefits of cloud solutions include potential cost savings and the minimal resources needed to maintain cloud-based applications.

For instance, a company hosting applications on its own on-premise server requires IT resources to manage implementation and updates, as well as maintenance of the server itself. When additional hardware resources are needed for an on-premise server, it must be ordered, installed and configured.  With a cloud hosted server, the addition of additional hardware resources can be immediate with very little or no interruption to your business. There are also cloud options that include server updates and patching as part of the solution.

Cloud solutions also offer the flexibility and wide availability that can prove to be beneficial in the current business environment in light of the coronavirus pandemic, as well as future computing.  The Cloud can simplify a team’s access to applications and storage from wherever they are working at a given time, without needing to change workflow or learn new applications.

Making Technology Upgrades Due to The Coronavirus Pandemic

The challenges that COVID-19 brought to businesses may have some companies continuing to scramble to fill the gaps in their technology; however, this also provides a new opportunity to increase efficiencies and productivity for your company.

If done thoughtfully and correctly, technology enhancements can lead to better services that meet the access requirements of the workforce, while encouraging speed and flexibility to address business needs in a shifting operational landscape, all which lead to better service to your customers.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed how companies should adapt to maintain operations not only in these uncertain times, but as an opportunity to truly evaluate their business and determine how best to move it forward.

If you’d like to discuss your business’s specific needs and what technology enhancements can make the biggest impact on your company, connect with a Warren Averett Technology Group team member who can help.

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