You should not deploy a new computer with Outlook
for a client running Exchange
— the pairing doesn’t work. Also, you cannot connect systems possessing
older Microsoft Office versions to many leading hosted Exchange platforms. And,
hopefully, clients will never ask you to load their old versions of
Act!, QuickBooks,
medical software, legal applications, and a variety of other third-party tools
(which they have declined to update) onto new
Windows 7
Windows 8
workstations when their old computers finally fail.

IT consultants unfairly receive the blame when older applications
prove incompatible with newer operating systems. If that happens to you, r
ather than pointing fingers at software vendors for introducing
incompatibilities or scolding clients for refusing to update old applications, you
should educate clients. By becoming a more proactive, educational partner, you
can help clients understand why so many incompatibilities exist, better assist clients
in identifying potential technology land mines before they become roadblocks,
and lower technology costs while improving reliability.

You can adopt the following habits to assist clients
in minimizing unwanted and unexpected incompatibilities, issues, and errors.

  • Share this article with clients. Explain how the potential combination of hardware-
    and software-based incompatibilities is so vast even a wunderkind possessing
    computers capable of predicting the weather could not predict every potential
    incompatibility or problem that could arise on a client’s network when
    deploying a new application, migrating hardware, or upgrading systems. Simply
    put, IT is an imperfect industry
    in which numerous vendors produce myriad operating
    systems, applications, programs, and equipment that often don’t work well
  • Develop a
    hardware lifecycle strategy.
    Perform an inventory of the client’s servers,
    workstations, laptops, and network equipment and develop detailed
    recommendations for replacing hardware as different devices approach reasonable
  • Develop a
    software lifecycle strategy.
    Determine which software
    platforms (office productivity, accounting, financial management, medical,
    manufacturing, contact management, etc.) are required to fulfill business
    operations. Then develop detailed recommendations for upgrading applications as
    the manufacturers introduce new versions, retire support for old editions, and
    introduce updates.
  • Implement remote management and monitoring (RMM).
    Deploy a strong RMM tool so you can receive real-time instrumentation as to the health and status of the client’s systems, and to help you better support clients. RMM tools also assist documentation, tracking, asset management, and
    logging — all of which are critical tasks in helping develop and maintain effective hardware
    lifecycle and larger IT strategy plans.
  • Leverage
    When a client begins exploring upgrading an application, server, or other platform, use a checklist to list potential incompatibilities and
    dependencies. Contact the prospective software or system provider and have it
    review the client’s current asset reports to confirm your office’s
    recommendations. If an error or upstream incompatibility is discovered
    later, at least you can demonstrate to the client that you performed your
    homework and required the manufacturer to confirm your findings.

Surprises are fun as a kid, but they are typically undesirable
as an adult, especially when they occur on a client site. Even when you implement the above steps, you can’t eliminate every
unforeseen issue, but you can assist clients in better and more safely navigating the troubled IT waters.