On the long list of things that will leave any IT or support employee dreading work, an end of support announcement is close to the top. When an OEM or software supplier announces either the end of equipment life or end of support for software, the result is almost universally some sort of chaos as organizations try to respond to the sudden need for rapid and unavoidable change.
An end of support announcement is problematic because it effectively means that you cannot safely continue to use a software solution, be it Microsoft Server, an operating system or an industry-specific app, without taking on considerable risk. From the end of support date onward, any vulnerabilities in the solution will not be patched, any new intrusion methods will not be dealt with and any stability problems will not be addressed. As such, you have to be ready to invest in new hardware, and you're going to need your IT service management suite to help you get the job done.
Considering the complexity of investing in new systems, here are five steps you can follow to get ensure stability following an end of support announcement:
1. Assess the Situation
How long do you have before the end of support date? How many systems will be impacted by the transition? Of those systems, how many are supporting critical data or applications? Asking these kinds of questions can help to alleviate some of the pressure associated with an end of support announcement and take strides toward resolving issues. As such, your first step in responding to an end of support announcement should simply be taking a deep breath and getting a clear picture of the task ahead.
2. Identify the Replacement Solution
Before you get too far in phasing out the old software, you'll need to have a clear understanding of the new solution that you'll be putting into place. This may sound trivial, but each software system will present unique issues that affect how you manage the configuration and adjust service desk workflows around the new solution. Deciding what new software you will purchase early on in the process plays a key role in ensuring a smooth transition.
3. Invest in Change
If you haven't already, put a change management system in place. If you do have a change management solution in your ITSM suite, make sure it is being used to maximum effect. For example, if you have a CMDB in your change strategy, make sure it is properly populated with configuration items before trying to switch over to new software.
If you don't have a change management system in place, you're in luck. Emerging service desk delivery models are making new investments easier and faster all the time.
4. Plan, Practice and Pilot
You should develop strategy for the transition, practice executing the necessary processes for the new installation and pilot the deployment on a small scale before trying to put new software into production at a large scale. A small, well-thought-out pilot can give you insight into any unique issues you may run into when putting new solutions into production.
5. Put Release Management in Place
Change and release management feature many similar processes, so some companies think they can get by with change alone. Sometimes this can work. But with organizations rolling out more apps, facing more complex production configurations and responding to trends like DevOps and agile development, release management is key. This is especially evident when trying to enable a smooth transition after an end of support announcement, as the specialized release management tools can ensure stable and efficient operations surrounding a new release.
End of support announcements will likely remain daunting, but innovative IT service management tools are making the transition to new systems more predictable and efficient.