Custom Software Apps & SharePoint Consulting

After the great shift change: What to do when you find yourself hired into a job with obsolete tech systems

For many years, the great shift change was a buzz word in production and manufacturing circles. In the wake of the covid epidemic and the worldwide shutdown, many people chose not to come back to work or take early retirement. This workforce exodus exacerbated the situation and spread the shift to middle and upper management of small and midsized businesses.

Many of those who didn’t return to work were set-in-their ways people who were content to ride out the end of their careers by using their established knowledge and previously completed business process improvements.

Many of the new hires and promotions are tech forward and looking for opportunities to improve the systems and processes they’ve inherited. Unfortunately, they’ve got to do this while keeping the business running and working with management and ownership that thinks that the way things were 20 years ago is still good enough today.

If this sounds familiar to you, don’t be surprised. There’s a lot of people out there in just this situation, struggling to understand and improve entrenched paper or spreadsheet processes, and install new systems piecemeal to drag their company kicking and screaming into the 21st century. We’ve seen people at every stage of this process, from new hires who don’t even have a checkbook suffering culture shock at the amount of paper their company is tracking and storing, to executives promoted into a larger company and struggling to modernize systems that haven’t been touched in years.

The Hippocratic principle is the first rule in any proposed change. First, do no harm. It is important to ensure that the business runs smoothly through any change. The unfortunate fact is that the company’s processes have congealed the way they have for a reason. Understanding what value the company is getting out of the process is an important prerequisite to planning any change.

Too many times companies will plan a replacement system for outdated processes and miss key requirements until late in the testing process (or even after rollout). This can be due to poor assumptions about how things are done, or simply lost tribal knowledge that has been embedded into the process and forgotten. In order to avoid this, project management and planning must be kept on an equal footing and weight with the actual development and construction of the system. All people and roles that touch the process must be consulted. The system must not only be designed with all the requirements in mind, but the stakeholders need to be consistently brought in to review the new system requirements, implementation and design. It’s not enough to inform people; they need to be consulted about not only what they do in the system, but what they are getting out of it.

While avoiding harm is the primary goal, much like in medicine you may find yourself in a situation where the patient is in an emergency situation. In modern software, this is the case when required upgrades conflict with out-of-date systems. This can happen when your planned upgrade fails because out of support systems do not integrate with the latest security patches or even annual rules engine updates of your live systems. It can also happen when you’re no longer able to even load up the software on modern hardware. Finally, new business process or requirements may be unsupportable on the antiquated systems, and you find yourself unable to acquire support or update the application to handle the new cases or resolve bugs. In these cases, it’s important to move quickly to create a new, sustainable process, and hopefully take steps to plan your software’s lifecycle and avoid these issues in the future.

Whether you’re looking to modernize your systems or dealing with an emergency break/fix situation, Entrance can help you at any point in the process: the design and planning of your new systems, building out a custom application, and working through the deployment and change management process. Tackling the changes necessary to modernizing systems can be intimidating but give us a call and we can walk you through the process, whether it’s choosing a new off the shelf system or planning a custom build that perfectly captures the nuance of your old spreadsheet or paper process.

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