How to manage the pain of change

Lawrence Jones

Sunday 11 October 2015

It often seems that the only constant in IT is that everything is changing. And the pace of change is rapid.

The pace of technological innovation is staggering. Over the past 10 years, we’ve seen the emergence of mobile browsing, the creation of a whole new market sector in touchscreen tablets and the breath-taking growth of the cloud.

While it seems clearly a mistake to be announcing the death of the laptop and desktop, the recent shift to portability and accessibility is driven in part by technological innovation, but more by the demands of businesses, consumers and the economy.

Where technology goes, software follows. The nature of updates and system changes is changing. The recent need to migrate from Windows Server 2003 to 2012 is perhaps the last of the wholesale software changes, as software providers – including Microsoft themselves – move toward iterative models of upgrading.

We look at some of the ways you can facilitate change while protecting your business.

Safe and sound

With big data comes big responsibility and data security is the most important thing on the minds of the world’s IT experts. The move to the cloud and the increasing ‘software as a service’ model is one of the most painful changes IT managers are dealing with at the moment. So how can you protect your organisation while embracing change?

“The simple truth is that the weakest link when it comes to any kind of IT security isn’t the technology – it’s the people using it,” says Adam Cosby, CEO of IAM Cloud.

“With the cloud and the rise of mobile and BYOD, people can be carrying company data, or an access point to company data, in their pockets and bags all the time. Education is paramount.”

Getting your staff to understand and respect the controls is necessary. But it won’t work without strict identity management controls, as Cosby explains: “The second significant challenge comes down to good identity management. Security without identity management would be a bit like running a border control environment without checking passports. It wouldn’t work.”

Creating a strong approach to identity management is key in safeguarding your organisation. In getting there, it’s essential you choose the right partners to work with.

Power of partnerships

The IT world has now transitioned from the traditional, product-based model to a model where IT is increasingly service-based. It’s this transition, and the strength of the service model, that can improve your organisations ability to manage change.

“When you pay for a service, it is the service provider’s responsibility to make sure they provide adequate training, their responsibility to stay on top of the latest technological changes, and their responsibility to fix problems.” Cosby continues.

“The main burden on business IT is finding the right service providers. IT Teams need to find trustworthy, forward-looking and customer-centric services that align with their business goals, keep their customers abreast of developments, industry standards, and upcoming challenges and opportunities.”

A question of timing

It was always so easy in the past. Major product changes were announced years in advance enabling IT teams to create implementation plans for deployment.

Today, many software businesses are moving away from the traditional large-scale product launches, to iterative updates. Users and administrators benefit as fixes can be rolled out quickly. The producer is able to release new developments to the market more quickly, refining and improving the system in partnership with its customers.

In reality, the old large-scale product launch model simply isn’t viable any more.

Microsoft have acknowledged this publicly, stating that Windows 10 will be their last ever major version of Windows, instead making incremental improvements. It’s the natural progression for the company, whose Office 365 cloud based platform provides all traditional Office services.

It may appear inevitable that more frequent changes mean more frequent problems for the IT team, and, but Cosby has an interesting take on this: “Occasional major projects are being replaced by smaller, more regular interventions. Given the historically dismal success rate of large IT projects, the business world should welcome this change.”

An intelligent approach

The increasing demands of users, and the flexibility and freedom offered by the next generation of devices are putting greater pressure on IT teams keen to maintain security without constraining innovation. This is why IT teams need to become more intelligent in their thinking.

“There needn’t be a tension between accessibility and security,” Cosby pursues. “The key is to make sure that you take an intelligent approach. Locking down every single application in your business with layer upon layer of security will just frustrate your employees and reduce productivity for very little gain.

“Making sure there is a positive correlation between the importance, sensitivity and value of your data, and the levels of security you apply is really important. This may vary from person to person. You may be OK with relatively standard security for junior employees, but want high security on the emails of your CEO and executive team.”

Creating a culture for change

Technology may be reliable, but the human interface can be where things can sometimes fall down. The best way to manage change may not be an investment in new technology or software – but in your own staff.

Investing in training for staff is a key way to help the whole organisation recognise that change is the natural state for IT departments.

A rewarding and supportive corporate culture can facilitate learning and growth, reduce dishonesty and avoid potentially damaging internal politics. Overall it can help create a happier, more productive and loyal workforce. There can also be a massive return on investment too.

Strong planning and strong partnerships can help you cope with the process of change, and embracing an iterative model of change and development can keep you protected and secure.

There will always be risks, and there will always be challenges, but change doesn’t need to be painful if you’re expecting it.