Succession Planning for Software Systems

August 10, 2018 | It runs in the family Kelly Kimmich, Business Strategist, Far Reach,

You’ve heard a lot lately about succession planning for businesses — passing everything down to the next generation and leaving a legacy.

Something you may not have thought of, though, is that just like with a business, you need to plan for the life cycle of any proprietary software systems you use. These include an ERP, a CRM, a quality assurance tool, back office management systems, customer portals and more.

At Far Reach, we like clients to think about custom software systems as if they were team members. After all, employees and software have a lot in common:

Both are there to accomplish something specific within your organization.

They need development to stay up to date with trends.

They should have a purpose that ties to your organization’s goals.

Every employee has a life cycle at an organization. They’re hired, they grow within their role, they gain additional responsibilities, they take on leadership roles, and someday they retire or leave.

Software also has a life cycle within an organization. It’s hired (developed), it’s built out to take on more tasks, it takes on responsibilities formerly handled by multiple other systems, and someday it’s replaced or retired.

To make the most of technology in your organization, you need to be purposeful and deliberate about your software strategy. When you develop a new system, ask yourself the following:

What is the system’s “job”?

Is it brand new or replacing another system or some combination of those?

Will the system be used only temporarily to validate assumptions? Or is it validated and ready to be built for the long term?

Once the system has been developed, will you leave it be, do simple maintenance or continually enhance it?

What’s the system’s retirement plan? Who or what will replace it when the time comes?

The key is thinking ahead. But how far in advance do you need to plan? It depends. In the same way you would like to have years of transition for a key leader within your organization, some systems require years of planning and development to make a transition as seamless as possible. Other software systems may not require the same level of planning, and a few months may be adequate. In general, the larger the impact of the software on the operations of your organization, the more advanced planning required.

Taking a proactive approach to your business’s custom software is how you make the most of your technology investment.