By Russ Levanway, CEO

We’re in the midst of remodeling our 4,500-square foot Fresno office right now, and if you’ve ever remodeled anything, you know it’s a long process. Our staff is temporarily relocated into a really small office in a neighboring building within the same business complex, in addition to some folks who work in a portable trailer that stands in our parking lot. Conditions are quite challenging for our staff, but they willingly embrace the upheaval because they know what they have to look forward to in about a month’s time: a brand-new, beautiful building to call home.

As we’ve traveled through this process, I’ve supervised the remodel, materials, quotes, proposals, etc, so I’ve been thinking a lot about all the trade-offs we’ve had to make to get from where we began to where we are now. In other projects, we’ve learned that we often don’t know which choices really matter until we fully move into a space; something we spent a lot of money on might not end up mattering all that much, but something else that we skimped on could potentially drive us crazy forever. I hope that’s not the case in this remodel; I’m pretty sure it won’t be.

In making hundreds of decisions about our remodel, I’ve seen a similarity between building a structure and building IT for a business. When we say that a home or office is built from the ground up, that means we start with things that are the most difficult to change: the foundation, the framing, the roof-line. They are the core of the building, not unlike the core systems that build a business’ technology: the servers, the software, and network connections.

These elements are not cheap; they require an investment. But that investment is commensurate with the fact that they are part of your information technology’s foundation. You may go through a lot of time and effort to get everything migrated to that system, and once you do, you won’t want to change it anytime soon. It’s not until after those core pieces fall into place that cosmetic changes can and should be made. In an office, that might be paint, carpets and fixtures. In technology, that might be a WiFi access point, printer or desktop computer. All of these are easy to change out.

The problem in both construction and in technology is that the cosmetic pieces are the ones that are most obvious. When you’re sitting in an office, you never think about its concrete foundation, the way it was framed or the roofing. You just take those for granted. But if you were to look at the total building cost for construction of that office, what you see in your immediate area is a tiny fraction of the budget. The same goes for technology: your desktop computer may have cost $1000 but the infrastructure is probably many thousands of dollars that deliver what you need to your desktop.

The point I’m making is this: don’t undervalue the underpinnings of your network and system. If you do, you’ll end up with a faulty foundation, leaky roof or paper-thin walls, and those will be fundamentally disruptive to your life and work. Put your investment in the foundation before you play with fixtures. Just like in construction, it pays to invest in infrastructure and get it right from the beginning.

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