How Do You Maintain Business Continuity During Major IT Upgrades?

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    CIO Grid

    How Do You Maintain Business Continuity During Major IT Upgrades?

    When faced with the daunting task of upgrading major IT systems without halting operations, leaders from various sectors share their strategies. From a Chief Operating Officer's 8-step continuity plan to an IT Risk & Security Leader's focus on phased system transitions, explore the four essential tactics these experts employed to maintain business continuity.

    • Implement an 8-Step Continuity Plan
    • Maintain Clear Team Communication
    • Conduct Extensive Testing and Planning
    • Focus on Phased System Transition

    Implement an 8-Step Continuity Plan

    As a business continuity provider, we deal with scenarios like this often, where clients, new and old, reach out for guidance on how to approach the challenge of making a major IT system upgrade while also maintaining business continuity. We have an 8-step system that's perfect for businesses looking to make changes and maintain their business continuity. Before that, however, at Continuity2, we do our pre-upgrade preparations. We combine business impact analysis (BIA) with Meridian BCMS. This allows us to evaluate potential risks and their impacts, allowing us to plan ahead and keep our clients' businesses safe.

    After our pre-upgrade preparations, we dive into our 8-step process, which I would recommend any business out there implement when performing upgrades to systems.

    1. Preparation and analysis phase
    2. Risk assessment and mitigation phase
    3. Identifying communication strategies so everyone is in the loop
    4. Continuity and recovery planning, using Meridian's BCMS we can make dynamic continuity plans (BCPs) and IT disaster recovery plans tailored to the needs of the business.
    5. Plan testing and validation. Again, using Meridian's features, we start to test our work, making sure the business is safe and the upgrade is well on its way.
    6. Phased implementation, we now delve into the upgraded system's integrity and test its functionality
    7. Incident management, in the event of an incident we will deploy Meridian to manage the incident promptly.
    8. Post-upgrade evaluation, we evaluate the process and cut the ribbons as the job is successfully complete.

    This structure separates the crucial steps for maintaining business continuity during a major IT system upgrade.

    Lisa McStay
    Lisa McStayChief Operating Officer (COO), Continuity2

    Maintain Clear Team Communication

    As the CEO of Startup House, I approached the challenge of maintaining business continuity during a major IT system upgrade by ensuring clear communication with our team. We held regular meetings to keep everyone informed about the progress of the upgrade and any potential disruptions. Additionally, we created a detailed plan for managing any unexpected issues that might arise during the transition period. By staying proactive and transparent, we were able to minimize downtime and keep our operations running smoothly throughout the upgrade process.

    Alex Stasiak
    Alex StasiakCEO & Founder, Startup House

    Conduct Extensive Testing and Planning

    The ability to maintain business continuity during a major IT upgrade requires extensive testing by key stakeholders, both in a non-production environment prior to implementation and for validation in production following the upgrade. There should also be a step-by-step rollback plan created to revert the system back to its previous state, should it be required.

    In addition, a timeline should be created with key milestones, notably the timing when a 'go/no-go' decision is needed. A 'no-go' decision is made when continuing forward with the upgrade would jeopardize system availability. Identification of this 'no-go' point on the timeline should factor in the amount of time necessary for the rollback plan to be implemented. Additionally, crisis management and communication resources should be available to address unexpected issues and ad hoc communication to stakeholders.

    Angela BellinoBusiness Continuity Manager, DailyPay

    Focus on Phased System Transition

    Keeping core systems updated and upgrading them are integral parts of maintaining business continuity. One particular project stands out in my memory, where I had to modernize a legacy system, incorporating new technology and migrating critical data simultaneously. Given the critical nature of this application for business operations, downtime was not an option. Here are the key areas we focused on to minimize business impact:

    • Thorough Planning: Identified all stakeholders and involved them in the planning process from the outset.

    • In-depth Analysis: Conducted a comprehensive analysis of dependencies and potential impacts on operations. This helped in planning for possible risk remediations.

    • Phased Implementation: Implemented a phased transition strategy by building a parallel system and prioritizing critical functions to minimize disruption to daily operations.

    • War Room Strategy: Maintained a rollback plan and had dedicated, trained staff from both IT and Operations available to handle any unforeseen challenges.

    • Monitoring & Communication: Ensured continuous monitoring and maintained clear communication channels throughout the process to promptly address issues and keep stakeholders informed.

    This approach resulted in a seamless transition, preserving business continuity, and enhancing overall efficiency.

    Vinesh Bhandari
    Vinesh BhandariIT Risk & Security Leader