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Convincing loyalist execs to replace antique systems

By TonyBaggaDonuts ·
We fear change. Any attempt to offset our current business practices will be shot down with extreme ignorance. That goes double for any type of new technology that may present a learning curve. One day, disaster will strike, but until then it ain't broke, so we're not fixing it.

These are the words I imagine hearing from my CFO when I ask him to consider upgrading our antiquated phone systems. The owner is from the 'old country' and if something were ever to happen to the phone system, he would "Go Jihad" over it... and that is a direct quote.

So what about having no backup system and a glitchy system processor? That spells disaster in my book. But even the simplest upgrade would require an altercation to our phone service, so it is deemed too risky and forgotten entirely. So we keep adding phone lines and choking the system? Thats what is happening.

Managing veterans out there: shed some light on this subject. How can I get my CFO to consider an upgrade and not make it seem like I'm trying to flip the company upside down due to my own naivity.

I've only been here a year and I want my concerns to be taken seriously when I present them. I feel like I'm trying to sell him something, which never works out for me.

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Let it happen

by Ed Woychowsky In reply to Convincing loyalist execs ...

Saw the same type of thing at a pharmaceutical company involving a minicomputer. It was so bad there that they even purchased two identical systems at an auction for spare parts. With that purchase they expected to be able to continue for years with their beloved system. Unfortunately another company that didn?t share their love for the antiquated computer system acquired them. In the end the system was scrapped.

The system will fail eventually, so let it. What you?re going to have to do is make sure that there is a paper trail that can be used to keep the blame for the failure from landing on you. You also might want to update your resume, just in case.

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"And the band played on..."

by Observant In reply to Let it happen

I agree, Ed. Sometimes there are organizations that simply will not see the handwriting on the wall, regardless of how good the justification for replacement. I too work for a company with legacy attitudes and legacy equipment yet these old fossils refuse to scrap a system that costs 10s of millions of dollars each year. Like the Titanic, there is an attitude that the guy that spotted the iceberg doesn't know what he's talking about and we're unsinkable. Regardless of how right you are, the company will NEVER accept an "I told you so."

In such a situation, the best that can be done is "Let it Happen" but start floating the resume. Also, there is little to be gained by trying to convince your co-workers that the ship is sinking. It's like the phrase "Never explain. Your friends don't need it and your enemies will not believe it." Your co-workers that are savvy enough, will see the same issues and have already polished their CV, the others mimicking an ostrich will still have have their head in the sand even after they get a swift kick in bo-dunkus.

Prepare yourself to move on and don't look back.

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Justification

by CompuGuru In reply to Let it happen

First of all, you have to understand the CFO animal. They are first and foremost bean counters that have reached the very top of the bean counting ladder. They need justification for spending money. The fact that the system is "old" and "unreliable" is not enough for the "if it aint broke" boys.

You need to break it down to what it will cost the company if the system does fail, then break down what it will cost to replace it.

1. Based on what you know, what is the likelyhood that the system will fail?

2. What will be the cost to the company if the system fails? (Lost revenue, lost orders, down time, etc.)

3. What is the cost of maintaining the current system. Sometimes maintenance cost of legacy systems can be more than purchasing and maintaining a new system.

Basically, you have to convince the CFO that it is more cost effective to change than to stay with the current system. If the cost of the current system failing is an acceptable risk, then you will not win this battle.

2.

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In the real world.

by grandis In reply to Convincing loyalist execs ...

You have to learn that Business's do thing for business reasons. Simply telling them that its old and it will die one day isn't enough. You have to build a Business Case for the replacement. That means Dollars and Cents reason$, why putting in a new system is better than waiting for the old one, That is paid for and is essentially free now!, to die. That is the only way to accomplish what you want to do. Or you can quit now and after 5 more jobs you will still be asking the same question.

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I have a 2 step philosophy....

by pennatomcat In reply to Convincing loyalist execs ...

Plan A:

Present the idea with valid arguments to back up my proposal.

Plan B:

Make the boss happy--be just as stupid as he (or she) wants you to be.

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Grandis & Pennatomcat are right

by Dr_Zinj In reply to I have a 2 step philosoph ...

You have got to build a case for this based on a business model.

1. Come up with the annual costs of maintaining the antiquated system (parts, labor costs, lost productivity costs of users).

2. Estimated total failure date. i.e. When it will most likely fail beyond repair. Provide cost of lost business and productivity for the period of time it will take to replace.

3. Provide replacement solutions, figuring average/desired and most expensive solutions. I would not go with the cheapest solution (unless that is the average too), as if your business is using substandard solutions to problems, then they are going to have substandard results - and who wants to work for a failing business?

Now go in and sell this to the boss/board. Compare the benefits of an orderly transition with minimal loss of productivity with the greater loss of productivity due to an unplanned outage with no ready replacement. Give him/her/them a projected project start date and completion date.

The boss/board may not like the cost of the average solution and push you for cheaper. Having presented the average and most expensive solutions, this gives you a bit of wiggle-room. You're the professional, they know what they need, you know how to fill that need. If they think they know better than you, then why did they hire you in the first place?

If all that doesn't work, then you are working for a fool. While I don't mind doing contract work for fools who don't follow my advice, I'd be just as big a fool as they are if I allowed myself to become a regular employee.

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do your bosses drive model t fords?

by sales In reply to Grandis & Pennatomcat are ...

I would suspect not, so why are you expected to compromise the business?

I would follow Dr Zinj's advice, only add the caveat from your exisitng phone supplier/maintainer (assuming you have one!!!) and get them to provide you with a ball park disaster recovery quote. Imagine its the day before your board present their lastest results and you arrive at work to find no one can ring in or out. That should be sufficient scenario to cause a few coranaries.

I would also cc or bcc the proposal to other members of the board outlining your fears and preferred solution.

And one last thing, ensure you are the one who must maintain it internally, remember in the land of the blind, the one eyed man is king. It would be an awful waste to have your salary pay for the renewal!

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Business Case

by JerryFr In reply to Convincing loyalist execs ...

First, dispel any notions that you're a techno-geek just wanting a new toy to play with and another line on your resume!
Then make the business case!
What's the $ cost of a system failure?
What's the impact on the business?
Provide a comparitive cost analysis. Fewer people, more productive features etc. etc.?
What's the payback period?
Find some examples of businesses that have experienced a failure. I'm sure a vendor will be happy to supply at least one.
How can a new system give the co. a competitive advantage?

Write it all down and submit it, if for no other reason than, when the fit hits the shan and your CFO goes 'jihad' you won't be the infidel. Find a way to 'leak' this info to the CFO's boss. One call to the CFO may do all of your convincing for you!

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Like everyone says...make the business case

by Daniel.Muzrall In reply to Convincing loyalist execs ...

Everyone who has posted saying that you need to build the business case are absolutely correct. You need to factor in for:
-Annual maintenance costs
-Upgrades
-Disaster Recovery
-Cost of a new phone system and related infrastructure such as cabling, power needs, etc.
-ROI
-Benefits of a new system like DID for each user, fax for each user, universal messaging, VoIP, etc. over the old system
-Cost per call stats for the old/existing system versus cost per call stats (estimated of course) for a new system with VoIP

If you work closely with your vendors, that type of information shouldn't be too hard to come up with, and if you pick the right system, a new phone system will likely cost much less than maintaining your old system.

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Get to the CFO's Heart Through His Wallet

by scott In reply to Convincing loyalist execs ...

CFO's tend to be a good check and balance with IT Managers. IT ideally would like to be on the "latest and greatest" versions of code, hardware, etc. However, it is necessary to show some type of benefit as there is always a risk in upgrades.

IT projects (new projects, upgrades, etc.) are typically approved for one of the following reasons: Compliance, security, or financial gain. Compliance is typically dictated by an industry rule or regulation and must happen. The latter two relate to finance. Let's look at each individually.

Upgrades and/or new products for security reasons will relate again back to cost. This is shown in the form of potential cost based on risk of not implementing the security measure. If you are a large organization, your IT Risk Management department should be able to assist with that analysis. Executive Management will determine if the risk is "acceptable", or decide to move forward with the project (countermeasure).

Financial gain for new projects can typically be determined using standard financial analysis like "return on investment" (ROI) and/or "net present value" (NPV). Upgrades are typically a bit more difficult to display a financial gain in that there is typically not an obvious return. The bad news here is that until you can show this gain, you will most likely not get your CFO's approval. If there is not some type of financial benefit, it is probably the right decision to reject the project, against IT's desire to have the latest and greatest.

Upgrades can typically show cost savings and/or risk reduction (security benefit) in the following areas:
1) Internal support staff reduction (less helpdesk calls, etc.)
2) Reduced vendor support costs (especially for discontinued versions)
3) Improved productivity by Users (new features, more efficient, etc.)
4) Potential cost based on risk of not doing the upgrade
5) Additional cost of working around the current version (i.e. software packaging, integration issues, etc.)

These points tyipcally require a bit of work such as helpdesk ticket analysis, and developing "what if" scenarios. It's not easy, but the way to a CFO's heart is through his wallet.

Hope this helps.

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