Strategic Planning for IT in 2020

Strategic Planning for IT in 2020

There are a lot of things to consider when running a business.  The end of the year brings a reconciliation of books, and frequently some resolutions for the year ahead.  I thought some quick info on what strategic planning for IT in 2020 should look like might be helpful.  Here are a few topics that should be discussed.

Major Software End of Life

2020 starts out from a bang with Microsoft end of life on a couple of key products.  Microsoft Windows 7 Pro is end of life January 14, 2020.  This means that Microsoft will no longer be supporting the product and will not release additional security patches for it.  If you have any kind of compliance or security needs running Windows 7 past this date will be a significant vulnerability that increases over time.

Those who are still running Windows 7 will need to migrate to Windows 10 to continue a supported operating system.  Windows 10 does have slightly higher hardware requirements to run properly, so if you have older hardware a replacement may be recommended.  We’ve been working with our clients for the last year and a half to migrate to Windows 10 and would be happy to help your business if you have a need.

In addition to Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 R2 is also end of life on January 14th.  The same cautions apply as there will no longer be security updates for this product either.  Server migrations typically take more planning as the frequently house key applications and data for the entire company.  Server 2019 is the current version of server for those looking to make a move.  It’s typically recommended that if your hardware is over 5 years old you replace the hardware as well.

Additional Microsoft End of Life Products

There are a few additional products going end of life Jan 14th 2020, as well as several throughout the year that you should keep in mind for planning purposes.  If you use Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2009 R2 that is end of life Jan 14 2020, along with Hyper-V Server 2008, and 2008 R2.

Internet explorer 10 goes end of life Jan 31st, 2020.  Later in the year on Oct 13th, 2020 there will be an end of life for all Microsoft Office 2010 products including Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Outlook, Access, InfoPath, OneNote, Project, Publisher, SharePoint, and Visio.  Office 2016 for Mac is also end of life on that same date.

Software end of life does not mean that the applications will stop working suddenly.  It simply means there is no longer security patches and updates available for these products.  If you’re a security conscious company or one that has specific compliance needs these are important dates to keep in mind so you can plan.

Strategic Planning for IT in 2020 – Hardware Obsolescence

Most hardware will live on a basic 3-5-year lifecycle.  Laptops are closer to 3 years, and desktops and servers closer to 5.  Server upgrades can be a significant migration project from one piece of hardware to another.  It’s best to take the time to plan these out ahead of time.  Good planning allows you to deliver projects on time and on budget.  In addition, you can plan downtime needed for migrations in times of the year that are less busy.

A quality IT provider should give you an updated hardware inventory on a regular basis and make recommendations on upcoming upgrades in advance.  At i.t.NOW we provide this information to our clients quarterly during their business review.  Additionally, we have it available on demand as part of their client dashboard online.

Part of being a true partner for our clients is taking the time to plan with them on what hardware will need refreshed throughout the year.  This allows our clients to easily create a budget for needed hardware and plan for IT expenses so that there are no surprises.

Strategic Planning for IT in 2020 – Special Projects

The beginning of the year is also a great time to look ahead at any special projects or initiatives that may be coming up.  Maybe your business would benefit from migrating email to Office 365 or migrating key servers or applications to the cloud.  Perhaps you have an upcoming security audit that you need to prepare for to ensure compliance is met.

A little time spent at the begging of the year to plan out these and other special projects on the horizon will allow you to achieve better results.  This also helps you reduce waste by allowing you to plan projects at times that will cause less disruption and downtime, eliminating the stress of last-minute deadlines and outages.

Strategic Planning for IT in 2020 – Continuous Improvement

We strive for continuous improvement for our clients.  That means that we want 2020 to be a better year for IT than 2019 was, and that 2021 should be better still.  We achieve this by trying to look back as well as look forward.

All tickets for 2019 have been categorized and reported on.  This allows us to examine those results and see if we can identify any trends.  Maybe you had way more issues with your email than is normal for a business of your size.  Maybe your server was offline more than expected.

By examining this data, we can identify the main sources of trouble tickets and problems and put solutions in place.  If email was the problem, maybe a move to Office 365 is the cure.  If the server has been having issues perhaps new hardware is in order, or a problematic application needs to be worked on.  The data allows us to see trends and plan to be continually improving.

Sometimes just listening to our clients or their users allows us to identify the main frustrations or pain points with their current IT solution.  This is a basic feedback mechanism but can prove effective.  We’re always looking to improve our service and make IT a better experience for our users.

Always forward, never back.

Strategic Planning for IT in 2020 – Security

Security is a hot topic when you talk business IT.  The threats are real, and they seem to be multiplying.  There is a new horror story every day about a business that got hit with ransomware and had to pay millions in recovery costs or even shut their doors as a result.  This is a real problem that is not going away anytime soon.  Do you have a strategic security plan in place?

The new year is a great time for discussion of security and the current solutions you’re using.  We recommend that you use a layered security approach and start from the outside in.  That means beginning with strong firewalls that are properly configured.  Adding software to the firewall that gives you perimeter defenses like intrusion prevention, gateway anti-virus, and advanced threat protection.

That means having policies on your server in place to properly administer passwords, antivirus on all servers and clients across the network, end user security training, and much more.

All reports indicate that the threats will continue to increase in 2020, so now is the time to get a security strategy in place that will protect you now and help carry you into the future.

Begin with the End in Mind

There’s a great quote from Franklin Covey that says that when we’re planning, we should begin with the end in mind.  Knowing what’s happening in 2020 in January will benefit your business.  Having a longer term 3-5-year strategic plan for IT will help even more.

Technology evolves rapidly, so its possible that your plan may not happen exactly as you outline it.  However, we’ve found its always better to start with a plan and to need to adjust it than to have no plan at all.  There are a lot of givens we know about and can plan for.

Look at the current state of your network, and picture where you want it to be in 3 years.  Do all your servers stay in-house?  Do key applications and data get moved to the cloud?  The answer depends a lot on your business and specific data needs.  However, planning for that future now can save you.  If you’re planning a migration to the cloud in 3 years, maybe push off that hardware refresh until the migration happens.

No matter the circumstance, beginning with the end in mind will help you to plan for success and not make costly IT mistakes.

Here to help

i.t.NOW is here to help.  We do strategic planning with all our clients and provide them with the insight they need to make empowered decisions about their IT.  If you’re in a situation where your provider isn’t active in planning, or giving you the support you deserve, we would love to talk.  Together we can plan a bright future for 2020 and beyond.