A Q&A with RVM CTO Geoffrey Sherman
In our day-to-day lives, technology goes in and out of style every few years, from a PC operating system to the latest media platform. Fortunately, in most of these cases, upgrading to the newest technology can be accomplished with minimal expense and time.
At the enterprise level, however, changes in technology can pose big headaches, ranging from compatibility with existing systems, retention for compliance, security, and of course – cost.
Many companies will delay the move to new or changed technologies as long as they can, opting instead for patches and workarounds. But at some point, it doesn’t make sense to fight the tide any longer; change is inevitable.
Geoffrey Sherman is RVM’s Chief Technology Officer, responsible for overseeing and deploying information technology products and solutions used by both RVM’s internal workforce and its clients around the world. What did he have to say about managing the challenges of change?
What might drive a company to consider upgrading to a new platform or system?
There are a few things at play. First, a company should look at its needs and determine whether they are being met by its current technology solution. An aging system may have a negative impact on work product or be vulnerable to security flaws.
Even if the product still functions perfectly, the company’s business needs may have evolved to the point where they are no longer being met. Or, new products may enter the market that include features not available previously. The value of those features will be weighed to see if they provide significant value to warrant the upgrade.
What are a company’s considerations before transitioning to a new technology platform?
Once a company realizes that their technology is not meeting their needs, the first thing to consider is whether the problem can be addressed with something less impactful, such as a version update, edition change, or workflow change. Failing those solutions, a replacement product or technology may be in the best interest of the organization.
For RVM, a key consideration is the impact that this change will have on our user base. We also need to evaluate if this change will require heavy architectural changes. We are sensitive to whether this would be a full replacement for our current platform, or whether the two would co-exist in parallel.
What are some of the concerns with upgrades in general?
RVM’s goal is to be on the cutting edge of technology, while stopping short of the “bleeding edge.” This means that we approach any upgrade strategically to be sure that the product version change is well tested, often-maintaining smaller test environments for major applications. However, in spite of the planning and testing, not all upgrades will go as planned.
There are ways to combat this. The most basic way is to have a maintenance plan in partnership with the technology vendor to handle minor problems as they arise. In addition to this, we firmly believe in recognizing the circumstances that warrant backing out of a given upgrade and having a mature process to revert to a known good state.
What steps can a company undertake to ensure a smooth transition to a new platform?
If you are reading this, platform change has become inevitable. There are many steps involved in an enterprise-level transition to a new platform. The key is gaining buy-in from the user base and testing early and often in manageable batches. This is crucial at the beginning for two reasons. First, it creates a sense of ownership. Future users that are invested early will apply a more critical eye and be more likely to contribute to the process, ensuring satisfaction with the result. Second, when users have a better grasp of a product and understand how it can meet their needs, there is a much higher rate of user adoption, which in turn improves return on investment.
Testing is just a common sense practice for any technology rollout. We recognize that no solution is going to be perfect out of the box, so it is critical that we conduct rigorous tests to find as many bugs and fix them before we roll out the product to our clients.
How do you measure the success of a transition?
Before we attempt any transition, we develop a notion of what the success factors will be, and solicit client feedback afterward. We find that this creates a feedback loop resulting in lessons learned on both sides. Responses may come in the form of contemporaneous feedback (e.g., emails or phone calls about the product) or may be a more formalized approach using surveys. No matter what we hear, we make sure we are learning from the process.
Can you give an example of a successful migration that RVM implemented?
RVM recently transitioned to a SaaS-based email security offering. The transformation was smooth due to meticulous planning and testing, and the user community was pleased with the added functionality, clear documentation, and fanatical levels taken to validate that operations went as planned. This was a situation where we performed several days of IT lead training to ensure everyone knew the timeline of events and that their expectations were well set. It was such a smooth transition that afterward I had to walk the floor and chat with users to make sure they were all working as expected, since there were no service desk tickets logged.
What should organizations consider if they have a legacy litigation offering or are facing challenges with the current system?
RVM can reduce the burden of housing legacy systems and even offload some modern ones, allowing our clients to focus on the merits of their cases without worrying about upgrades, testing, and downtime. As an example, RVM can migrate Cases from Veritas’s Clearwell Platform, which has a large footprint of mostly static cases. RVM specializes in migrating Relativity Workspaces to eliminate the burden and upkeep of hosting Relativity in house. Such options offer clients the ability to put contingencies in place for service and support.