5 Biggest Mistakes Businesses Make When Starting an IT Project

Lists; people love lists.  And authors seem to love writing lists; presumably because they know people love reading them.  I have prided myself on the fact that I haven’t given in to the siren song of the countdown list in any of my web articles to date, but I fear it’s time for that perfect record to come to an end.  The reason?  I have been seeing way too many Naples businesses make the same technology mistakes over and over again.  Consider this article your Network Mistakes, Naples, FLlighthouse in the dark, or your caution tape around the open manhole; whichever analogy you prefer.  If you are a business owner, and will at any time be involved in a computer network or technology upgrade of any kind, read on!  Avoiding these simple caveats may save you precious time, money, and headaches.  Without further ado, and in no particular order, here are the top 5 mistakes businesses make regarding IT projects:

1)      Failure to “back in” to the hardware requirements. Here’s a typical scenario:  A new customer calls me.  They are very excited because they are opening their new widget manufacturing facility on Enterprise Ave, and they can’t wait to get their computers set up.  I go in, and they have 10 computers that they just went out and got for a suspiciously low price from the guy in the blue shirt at Best Buy.  Problem is, they all have Windows 7 Home Premium, which doesn’t support any of the network features needed to run in a business domain environment.  Plus, the 2 GB of RAM on the machines is insufficient to run their order tracking software.  Oops.

The temptation to order equipment before analyzing your network situation is a very strong one indeed, but it is important to resist this.  Always have a technology specialist assess your needs before buying anything.  You never know what kind of specific hardware requirements you may run into when it comes time to implement your network.  If you wait until after the network evaluation and “back in” to the purchasing phase, you will be sure to get the right equipment for your needs, not matter how esoteric your needs may be.

2)      Buying the wrong software. These days, buying the right software is usually much more complex than buying the hardware.  The most common mistake I see is businesses who assume that a certain piece of software (such as PowerPoint or Outlook) will be included with their computer purchases (which in this case, they usually are not!).  As mentioned above, there are different versions of Windows, (home vs. pro; 32-bit vs. 64-bit) so even something as simple as your workstation operating system can cause problems if not ordered properly.

Sometimes, the right thing to do is to NOT purchase software.  For example, there are many excellent anti-virus solutions available for no charge that are better than the ubiquitous Norton and McAfee paid solutions.  The same goes for a myriad of other tools and applications, many of which are available for free if you know how to find them.

Server software is even more complicated, with the addition of Client Access Licenses, database licenses and a host of other strange licensing schemes.  Finally, your business’ primary software application may have very specific licensing requirements which require a chat between your network technology provider and your software application company.  The bottom line is again, don’t spend any money until you’ve shared your requests and requirements with a qualified network technician, no matter how “simple” the software purchasing seems.

3)      Don’t rush genius. All too often, I see businesses wait until the last minute, and then realize that they have to have everything in place in 5 days to meet their “go live” target date. Needless to say, this is a recipe for disaster.  If you want to implement technology solutions properly and without unfortunate surprises, you must allow enough time for the upgrade/move to be handled smoothly.

IT projects consist of many “sticking points” which are things that can hold up the entire project if not handled properly.  For example, if a business is moving to a new building, the wiring infrastructure must be in place before anything can be done with the computers.  Even if wiring does exist, the smart thing to do is get a certified electrician in there to test the wiring, ensuring it is up to spec and fully functional.  If a business doesn’t consider this until the last minute, it could hold up the whole project.  Or worse; theAvoid computer mistakes with IT Professionals business might decide to push forward anyway without taking the time to test the wiring, which could have huge repercussions later if the wiring proves faulty.

A rule of thumb is to allow at least a month between the initial meeting with the technology provider, and the day you will physically start to make changes to the system. This allows time to not only plan out the changes, but to coordinate with any 3rd party contractors that may need to get involved (such as the wiring in the above example).  It also allows you to schedule upgrades around your business’ work schedule (weekends or after hours) so that your business operations are minimally impacted by the change.

4)      This is not “Home Improvement”; No Do-It-Yourself. I can always tell when a business has installed home-grown technology.  They usually call me a few days after the implementation to fix all the problems they are having from misconfigured hardware and software.  The problems that can arise from an inexperienced person trying to implement constantly-changing technologies are self-evident, but there are a couple of other points you should consider.

If you are running a construction company, are you going to have Bob, your lead project manager, come in once a month and clean and vacuum the office?  Of course not.  And it’s not just because Bob would get mad and quit if you made him do that; it’s because his time is more valuable spent doing his job.  Even if Bob could clean every bit as well as a cleaning crew, he was hired for a reason, and every minute he spends doing something other than his job is effectively wasting the company’s money, and destroying any savings that might have been had by not hiring the cleanup crew.  Even if an employee dabbles in technology on the side, they will never have the full range of knowledge and contacts necessary to make a serious technology implementation truly successful and cost-effective.  What’s worse, sometimes businesses will get their technology working themselves, but may be missing out on implementing key features that could really help the business thrive.  If you are going to spend the money on a new server, new networking equipment, etc, you’d best be sure that you are making it sing and dance and work to its maximum potential.  Hiring a professional technology provider will ensure this.

5)      Failure to protect Intellectual Property. This is a broad category which includes everything having to do with the company persisting despite hardware or personnel loss.  The most obvious example of this is data backups.  Without a backup solution in place, you are leaving yourself open for a world of pain if your hardware ever fails.

However, the other side of this same coin is security.  A smart and tight security system ensures that no data is lost from human error or malice.  This includes well-documented passwords and file-based security on your server, which allows employees to access only the data they need to do their job.  Anti-virus and firewalls keep you safe from viruses and hacking attacks.  Email spam and virus filters will prevent the most common types of computer viruses and nuisance emails.  Even web-content filtering is becoming more commonplace in the workplace; preventing employees from wasting company time on inane websites or from contracting a virus online.

Finally, you must always be certain to choose a technology provider that is very open and honest with you about what changes they are making, and what solutions they are implementing when they build your system.  They should provide you with a list of all passwords for the system and domain name registrars.  I can’t tell you how often I see companies held hostage by their network or web provider because their domain name was not registered in the business name, and the IT provider is now sole owner of YourBusinessName.com.   Choose an honest and up-front network solutions provider from the start, and they will help you make sure your business identity and intellectual property stays intact through this project and the next.

Paul Nicodemi

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Naples Computer Service

300 5th Avenue South
Suite 101-192
Naples, FL 34102
239-777-1382

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