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New Year's resolutions? How about a technology diet plan?

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Tech Talk by Peter Mate
Peter Mate is co-owner and president of Planit Canada, a software and services company devoted to servicing the manufacturing industry. For more info email peterm@planitcanada.ca

Happy New Year! How are your resolutions holding up so far? I find that the hardest thing is getting into a routine. It’s the change. Once you’re in it, it’s pretty easy to keep up. I have waves of going to the gym. I could go for a few months, then summer arrives. When summer gets here, I have too many distractions. Sailing, camping, motorcycling and two young kids who want to get out there and play at the park. Summer is usually when I fall off my going to the gym routine and fall/winter is when I get back on. I always find it hard to get back to the gym. That first day is a tough one. I have to convince myself in baby steps. Once I have 2-3 days under my belt, it’s easy. I don’t even think about it anymore, I just wake up and head to the gym. While my gym routine is one that gets reset every year and requires some effort to re-instate, my eating habits are pretty constant.
My diet is not perfect, but I love to cook, I do the groceries and I’m mindful of what I buy. Most of the time, when we have pizza night, I roll out dough and make homemade pizza with a good sauce and healthy ingredients. I eat my share of greens and veggies, I don’t drink pop and I try to steer clear from junk-type desserts. That being said, every once in a while, I eat unhealthy foods. I will have a sloppy burger, fries, greasy foods, etc. I’m no stranger to beer and wings and can definitely be a contender to judge a cheesecake competition. The point is that overall my diet is good and the exception is the bad stuff, not the other way around.
I’ve never realized how companies feed their technology health. Are the technology habits in your company extreme as in; you are on the latest hardware and software across the board the moment it is released. Perhaps you’re on the other end and floppy disks are still part of your reality.
My take on a healthy technology habit is one that is reasonable. It doesn’t have to be extreme, but it should be proactive more often than being reactive. What does that look like? Well, I think it means that most of your software like Windows and Office are within the past few versions. You are using commonly used technology in the industry. You are adding more technology to your business on a regular basis to continue to keep your company up with the times and competitive. You are refining the existing technology you have via updates, upgrades and training for your team. Relevant members of your team attend training opportunities and trade shows.
I don’t think a healthy technology habit needs to warrant the latest and greatest at the very moment it is released, but more of a realistic approach. Falling too far behind creates a risk of chaos and increases the technology maintenance burden. Running antiquated CNC machines, operating systems, software, computers and other IT stuff is a technology diet geared towards an outcome of poor technology health and eventual failure.
The odds are against you.
The mentality of “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it,” is not something you want to do in the technology world. If you are not actively maintaining your technology by updating and upgrading a little here and there, the day will come where something will break, the fix will be expensive, difficult and it may force you to perform other changes at the same time. All this under pressure while systems are down and production is possibly halted.
In 2016, I wish you a healthy technology habit. Here’s your technology diet plan for 2016:
• Train you team on the technology you use a little more each year.
• Expose your team via trade shows, webinars and seminars to other technologies.
• Update or replace some old computers, hardware, CNC machines or other equipment with newer ones.
• Update some computers running old operating systems.
• Keep your professional software (i.e. engineering, design, CNC, ERP, etc.) within a version or two of the most recent release.
• Refine your existing technology to increase efficiency.
• Incorporate new technology into your business to open up new opportunities for improved profitability.
By having a healthy technology diet plan you will reduce the risk of a massive technology attack significantly. 

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