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Tech Manager—Time to Think About Retirement

We need to talk about retirement. Not your retirement… but that is something that you should be taking care of. You know, your 401k, investments, second career, etc. Will you have enough to fund your golden years? Will you be downsizing, relocating, or maybe just rightsizing? What are your personal plans for retiring? Oh wait, that is not my topic…

We need to talk about retiring old technology. You know, those old tools and hardware that just will not go away. Those items that were cutting edge back in the day but are like a dull set of knives now. Someone could get hurt by them and it might be you or your project. Time to move them along. Time to clean up the mess. Time to move toward the future and relinquish the past.

But it is so hard to do. They still work. They still get the job done (slowly but done). They are still loved by many at your firm. Many still remember how much that hardware cost and not want to e-cycle it just yet.  People may not want to learn new tools and are fine with the old ones. They are so much faster when using old techniques, old tools, and maybe even old hardware. They may cling to past achievements and remind you how they served so well for so long. But – it is time to say, “So Long”.

Old tools and hardware might be a security risk. No longer getting updates on old hardware or OS versions, like mobile phones, tablets, etc. can introduce security risks as folks continue to use old apps. Old software generates older format files that may get corrupted easier. Out of sync versions might limit project access by some team members.

Keeping old tools, hardware, data, and more is just poor housekeeping. You may have heard of Good Housekeeping magazine. It has been around since 1895 and has great concepts of how to stay tidy. Since its introduction, they have updated constantly and are now offering the latest content in print and online. It is not your grandma’s magazine anymore. But some of you may feel like you’re still using your grandma’s software or hardware. Time to get rid of it.

I am not talking about when to upgrade and when to look for new tools. I am talking about getting rid of the ancient boat anchors that still tie you down. And retiring the archaic software that still sits on your latest hardware. I am discussing the super old data that is still taking up space on your servers and backups.

If you are still paying for any older, unused, or seldom used software/hardware, then retiring it can save you some cash. No need for maintenance contracts and upgrade efforts to keep it alive. Just send it out to pasture and move on. This is called application or hardware decommissioning or sunsetting.

Retiring in Style

Retirement means sleeping in, travel, new or expanded hobbies, no timelines or deadlines, more time with family and so much more. Oh… wait… that is for you, not the software and hardware that served you so well.

Convincing others that it’s time to retire your old tools may be the hardest part. You need to start convincing them that they need to let go. One way is to agree to keep it alive… as long as it works without needing support. Think of it as a “Do Not Resuscitate” order. If it dies, it is gone, agreed?  Before it stops working, get them to agree on what will be done when it fails. So many heroic Tech teams have spent countless hours keeping old tech alive for too long.

You might be able to prove that the data is no longer usable and must be migrated which needs to happen before hardware or software dies. Move it and then shut things down. (See Migration below). If you are like me, I bet you can dig up an old flip phone or iPhone 4 in some drawer that you just can’t get rid of. Everyone saves some old stuff… but they should not just keep using it.

Connect Retirement to a Milestone

Tie retirement to an End-of-Life announcement by the vendor. Anchor it to an End-of-Support announcement by the vendor or your individual contracts for support. Link it to a Last Order Date by manufacturer (when you cannot buy any new devices just like it). Create your own milestones with a product lifecycle stand that defines how long you hold on to hardware.

For software, hook it to a file format change that is two to three cycles back. Connect the retirement to being so many versions back from the latest. Keep it rooted in current trends and cut off using tools that no one uses any more.

Migrate the Data

Before you close up shop, get whatever you need in a format you can use. For many projects, it is hardcopy prints of the design. It may also be digital prints of the final docs. Either way, you no longer need the data that generated the contract documents (other than calcs that support engineering, which can also be printed or digitized). The point is, that if the project is designed, built, and commissioned, you do not need to crunch numbers again, regenerate 3D views, expand details, or anything else, at least not in the same version of software that generated the data. Move it out and decommission the tools. Store legal docs, load things into the cloud (cold storage), then wipe the drives and move on.

Have a Retirement Party

For those that really loved the tools or hardware or remember just how much you paid to buy that cutting edge tool back in 1998, have a party. Clink a few glasses, tell some good stories, play taps, and move on. I have a shelf in my office that has a collection of old tech hardware. It is nostalgic to talk with people about the tools, but it does not drag down my current tech use. And keep this same frame of mind about retirement for the great new tools you just embraced… at some time in the future, they too will also need to be retired.

Mark Kiker has more than 25 years of hands-on experience with technology. He is fully versed in every area of management f rom deployment planning, installation, and configuration to training and strategic planning. As an internationally known speaker and writer, he is a returning speaker at Autodesk University since 1996. Mark is currently serving as Director of IT for SIATech, a non-profit public charter high school focused on dropout recovery. He maintains two blog sites, www.caddmanager.com and www.bimmanager.com.

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