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Learn Is your IT infrastructure fit for the new normal?

5 steps others are taking right now

Written by Millgate 07/05/2020

When’s the last time you looked for ways to improve your IT infrastructure?

Perhaps very recently if your business, like so many others, has made the transition to home working. But how extensive were the changes you made?

A lot of organisations have purchased a few new laptops then declared themselves remote, robust and resilient. Bigger, more ambitious tech projects and adjustments were put on hold until business as usual – or the closest possible thing – resumed.

However, other organisations are seizing the ultimate opportunity to review and ramp up their IT systems. By taking a long, hard look at what’s in place – and as importantly, what isn’t – you can deliver improvements that will make a long-term difference to your business and futureproof it for a new normal in workplace requirements.

When the workforce returns to the office, we will see a seismic change in how their business’s IT supports them. Infrastructure will provide a hybrid role of strong stability to office-based workers combined with the flexibility and agility needed to enable remote working. Companies that recognise this are already preparing their systems, and when they return to the office they will be leaps and bounds ahead of their competition as a result.

But knowing where to start and what improvements to look for isn’t easy. Even at a company like Millgate – where we have over two decades’ experience providing tech that actually works – many opportunities to improve were discovered and some valuable lessons were learned in the process.

So we’ve put together this article to share those lessons and to guide you through your own IT enhancements to make your business ready for the new world of working.

1) Understand that now is the perfect time to improve your IT infrastructure

Have you heard the tale of the town with two barbershops? One is immaculate, and the owner has a dapper haircut. At the other, hair coats the floor like a shag carpet straight out of the 70s, and the owner looks like he’s been growing out his own hair since then.

So, which one do you go to?

You pick the latter, who’s been so busy helping his customers – including the first barber with the great hair – that’s he’s not had time to get his own house or hair in order.

A lot of businesses are in the same boat. And though yours hasn’t closed down like the barbershops, you might have seen some colleagues furloughed or a reduced volume of work.

And that’s exactly why now is the perfect time to assess your IT infrastructure needs.

While we at Millgate are still working at full pace to help our clients succeed, we’ve identified an opportunity to assess and strengthen our own systems – to finally get our own haircut – using our in-house expertise.

There might never be a better time for you to review your own tech. With nobody in the office and everyone recently set up to work remotely, short-term IT support needs have likely declined, freeing up the time to make those long-awaited updates – or to discover improvements you hadn’t even realised needed making!

2) Speak to your key stakeholders

But where to begin? You need to know which changes will have the biggest impact on your team so that you can prioritise these accordingly. And you can’t just guess, because your hard work will be wasted if it doesn’t deliver benefits for your business or your people.

Instead, you need to let your people tell you what would benefit them.

When we decided that now was the time to enhance our IT infrastructure, we started by interviewing key stakeholders from across Millgate – from our account managers, to our technical and operational departments and right through to our back-office teams.

In doing so, we uncovered a number of quick wins, opportunities for simplifying administration and ideas for more strategic change that will enable our growth.

Your stakeholders and their needs will differ from ours, and so too will the interviews you hold with them. However, you might want to use or adapt these five simple questions we asked our people:

  • What data do you need to perform your role more effectively?
  • What aspects of your role could be simplified by technology?
  • Is all of your reporting critical, or can some of it be consolidated or automated?
  • How can your department scale with the changes that will come over the next five years?
  • What other opportunities for streamlining your workload can we address?

Each interview took up to an hour, and the answers revealed some brilliant ideas from all areas of the business. These will shape the direction of our infrastructure development over the coming weeks and the next several years.

Speaking to your key stakeholders will tell you where to begin.

 3) Pick your priorities and choose your champions

You’ll notice the questions we asked cover both short- and long-term needs. Discovering low-hanging fruit is great, but through stakeholder interviews you should also uncover some acorns that will grow into tall oaks over time. These are the areas where you can improve your IT infrastructure to ensure your business is versatile and successful in the new normal.

Keep your overall business strategy at the heart of the improvements you plan. At Millgate, we have clear growth ambitions for the next five years. That means more pressure on our systems and the people who use them.

A simple example of this existed within our finance team. As Millgate works more closely with our current clients and continues to win new business, more invoices will need processing. And now is a fantastic time to start preparing for this. Our stakeholder interviews uncovered opportunities for streamlining some admin-heavy functions of the department and automating others. The former can be done quickly, whereas the latter will take more preparation. But as a result of one stakeholder interview, we now have some major quality of life improvements we can start work on.

It will be up to you to decide how you balance short-term needs and long-term goals with technology, but you shouldn’t have to do this alone.

We’ve selected champions across multiple departments to gather deeper insights on requirements and results and regularly feed these back to our infrastructure team. Ultimately, it will be their feedback that determines whether the enhancements we make are a success or not.

Alternatively, you might want to work with an external partner who can help you gather requirements, plan necessary changes and support you to implement these. Many of our clients have already asked for help navigating this, and we’re here to help you too if you need us.

Focus on improvements that will have the biggest impact and ask for regular feedback.

4) Plan your changes

Once you’ve identified opportunities to improve your IT infrastructure, you can start planning how you’ll realise these.

Your method will depend on a huge list of factors – your organisation’s size, sector and strategy to name a few – so we can’t tell you exactly what you’ll need to do in this article.

However, we can share some of our own plans and more examples of why now is the perfect time to start futureproofing your IT to meet changing business requirements.

Storage & Servers:

Remote working has put pressure on our servers, but by taking a step back we have found ways to ease this not just for now, but forever. For example, a transition to Microsoft SharePoint will eliminate duplication of files across shared folders while enabling real-time editing, strengthening collaboration whether our team is in the office or not.

Cybersecurity:

Unless you’re deliberately looking at ways to fortify your long-term cybersecurity, it’s very possible that renewals for critical protection subscriptions will sneak up on you. This leaves you no time to actually decide if the solution you’re signing up to for the next three years is actually the right one for you. We’ve taken the opportunity to upgrade our own security solutions as well as our associated security policies.  Your cybersecurity shouldn’t be a tickbox task – it should be central to your IT infrastructure. Now is the time to make sure your protection is fit-for-purpose.

Communications:

Whether your team and customers are connecting through mobiles, softphones or video conferencing apps, it’s likely your communication needs have never been greater than right now. At Millgate, we’ve taken feedback from our stakeholder interviews to improve the functionality of our VPN and softphone app, making remote collaboration seamless. At the same time, we’re reviewing our telephony and WiFi capabilities in the office so that when our people are back on site, communication will be better than ever for ourselves and our clients.

These are just three of many areas we are currently assessing. It doesn’t have to stop at the tech side of things either. Expand the futureproofing efforts to the wider business by considering long-term requirements around CPD, quality control and facilities maintenance, as examples.

Decide which areas you will target to improve your IT infrastructure.

5) Select your tech enablers

So, you’ve decided what needs to be done to improve your IT infrastructure, where you need to begin and the benefits you’re seeking to deliver. But what are the right tech products, services and solutions to help you get there?

Sifting through the countless technology vendors out there to find the perfect fit for you can be overwhelming, especially when you’re trying to address multiple, diverse business requirements.

Working with a single trusted technology partner can ease the burden significantly. And at Millgate, we appreciate how difficult it can be to audit and improve your entire IT infrastructure – we’ve just been through it ourselves!

That’s why we are offering to produce a snapshot of your IT infrastructure portfolio, including your client network, server and storage estate plus additional detail on any VMWare configurations.  This audit is completely free of charge*, and is bespoke to each business.

As part of the service we will:

  • Work with you quickly and non-intrusively to analyse your current state
  • Advise you on how to truly futureproof your business to achieve your strategic goals
  • Recommend which technology can help you get there. We are vendor agnostic, so you can trust that our recommendations are right for your business, not for a select few vendors

We’re already working with a number of businesses to audit their current infrastructure, and these businesses will stay ahead of the curve as the rest of the world catches up to the new normal of working.

Don’t put it off. Now is the right time to prepare for the next month, the next year and the next decade. Call us today on 0114 242 7310 or request a callback.

 

*additional billable options available

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