New hardware is an inevitable part of your business’s IT journey. Perhaps you plan to upgrade your server hardware once it reaches end of life. Maybe you’ve taken advantage of third-party maintenance to extend the life of your end-user systems, but you’ve decided new systems are now in order.

For Howdens Joinery ‒ a manufacturer and supplier of kitchens and joinery products to small builders ‒ it was a new point-of-sale (POS) system with 1,200-plus new chip-and-pin devices to be installed in depots nationwide. The hardware rollout needed to be completed with as little business interruption as possible and meet Payment Card Industry (PCI) security standards.

Thanks to dedicated resources, expert planning and thorough testing, Howdens ultimately met its objectives an entire month ahead of its 16-week deadline. Here are three tips from Howdens’ project that you can carry in to your own hardware rollout.

Ensure you have the right resources

Managing a rollout is a time-consuming responsibility. You have to plan out the project, ensure deadlines are met and troubleshoot issues. Then, of course, there is hardware to procure and stock to track and manage. In addition, all the systems must be installed properly and synced up with your existing network and data. It’s a big project that can lead to big problems if you’re not equipped to manage it.

Whether you decide to manage the project in-house or outsource to a managed service provider (MSP), it’s important to consider a few factors:

In-house

  • Operational impact ‒ How will the project impact operations? Will you still have the staff required to troubleshoot day-to-day issues?
  • Training ‒ Are your IT staff fully trained in the hardware being deployed?
  • Management – Do you have someone equipped to oversee the project and manage the technicians doing the on-site work?
  • Geographical presence – If you have multiple locations, do you have enough staff members to handle the rollouts at those locations? How much time and expense will any required travel add to the project?

MSP

  • Expertise ‒ How long has the MSP been providing IT services in general and hardware rollout services specifically? Are the technicians skilled in the specific type of hardware you’re deploying? Does the vendor provide the hardware procurement and inventory management services you require?
  • Qualifications ‒ Does the MSP have ISO accreditations or other relevant qualifications? Can the MSP satisfy your compliance requirements?
  • Geographical presence ‒ If you have locations distributed across multiple regions, does the MSP have easily accessible engineers in those regions?

In Howdens’ case, the company had already selected and procured the hardware but determined that it needed additional resources to manage the project since it had a diverse IT estate and wide geographical footprint. The team selected ITS.

Plan the project strategically to minimise disruption

The goal of any hardware rollout should be to minimise risks and interruptions to normal operations while ensuring the project is completed accurately.

During the Howdens project, the teams mapped out a plan of action and regional schedule, taking into consideration factors such as the need for building audits to identify where security breaches and other risks could occur, as well as the timing of pinch points like period ends.

Audit the project thoroughly

To ensure the installation went smoothly, our team rolled out trial installations at five depots over the course of a week. If any errors arose, we’d be able to troubleshoot on a small scale versus at all locations nationwide. We then fed knowledge developed during the pilot back into the main project. Finally, we installed and integrated the rest of the new hardware into the existing IT estate and linked it to backend systems.

Because the project needed to meet PCI compliance standards, our work was audited by a third-party qualified security assessor from end to end. We also conducted backend testing to ensure that any changes would not cause detrimental effects to existing banking software systems.

Since the completion of the project, Howdens has seen increased productivity and fewer disruptions due to chip-and-pin issues. For more tips on ensuring your hardware rollout is also a success, read “Stop putting your business at risk with aging hardware”.