Change is never easy, even if you’re getting out of a relationship that’s no longer working for you. We know this from experience. Nearly every time we bring on a new client, they’ve recently broken up with their old IT firm or had employees quit or get fired. Causes aside, the real concern is how to best manage the transition as seamlessly as possible.
Over the course of dozens of client onboarding experiences, I’ve learned a few things about managing change in technology:
- Plan, plan, and plan again. When we start working with new clients (or on projects for existing ones), we develop a customized migration plan with a focus on the business needs and awareness of the end-user impact. We have proven checklists that detail what needs to be done for all aspects of the transition. For larger clients, the change/migration process can take months and for smaller clients, it can take less than a week.
- Expect a few time bombs. We do a comprehensive assessment of the state of the current technology setup for every new client. In this process, we put a spotlight on everything we touch. Often we find what we call “time bombs,” those things that the old IT staff didn’t bother to do for a myriad of reasons: it wasn’t an urgent problem, it was too hard, they didn’t have time to worry about it, they didn’t understand the risk, or didn’t want to have the hard budget discussion. Quite often our new clients are surprised about what has been going on (or not going on…) with their IT support. Increasingly in technology, the old adage “just because it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” no longer works. The business consequences are too significant when things break, backups fail or viruses attack. Systems need to have their software regularly updated, tested, monitored, and old hardware needs to be replaced when appropriate. It can take time to get all of the systems under control, normalized, and reliable, but it is time well spent.
- Talk – a lot. We over-communicate to the executive team and to all of the users before we make any changes. We talk, we plan, we talk some more, we plan some more, then we execute. Beyond the initial transition, we sit with clients at least quarterly to have strategic discussions about their IT and raise any and all issues that need to be considered.
Whenever we start a new relationship, we recognize that the first few months are an investment. We have to spend time to uncover and clear away the baggage from old relationships, communicating like crazy all the while. We’ve found our onboarding process helps build a stable, enduring partnership. After all, we don’t like to break up any more than our clients do.