There is generally a lot of fear and stress that accompany planned upgrades to software programs. While some of this fear is warranted, much of it comes from a lack of communication and advanced planning. The best way to avoid stress is to eliminate as many unknowns as possible.
The best way to eliminate unknowns is to do some research on your own. Never take the software salesman’s word for anything and be dubious even of information obtained from the software support team. We all know that many sales people will tell you anything to get the deal signed and leave you to deal with the problems when it’s too late for you to back out. The transition team will usually provide more realistic information but they will generally stick to the minimum requirements. They don’t want to tell you that you’ll need to upgrade hardware on top of the expensive software you just purchased, so they will be vague whenever possible about likely end-user experiences.
Your research for on-premise software upgrades will need to include:
- Detailed information of your computer network
- Server Environment
- Current operating system and service pack level
- Processor speed
- Available memory and hard drive space
- Applications currently running on the server(s) in question
- Workstation Details
- Current operating system and service pack level of each machine
- Processor speed of each machine
- Available memory and hard drive space of each machine
- Applications currently running on the PC(s) in question
- Security levels of end users
- Do you have current login information for firewalls, routers, etc?
- Alert your IT support team(s) that their assistance might be needed (with as much advanced notice as possible).
- What is the speed of your internal network? Gigabit switches won’t help if your PCs all have 10/100 network interface cards.
- Network Environment
- Server Environment
- Employee skill level
- Try to determine where employees are today
- Ask them (individually). Don’t be surprised if they paint a bleak picture.
- See if the software vendor can offer quizzes or other means of determining skill level.
- Try to determine how much training will be needed for the new system
- Speak with companies who have already been through the upgrade.
- Once you’ve figured it out, add 20%-30%.
- Include at least 20% of the total training dollars in each year’s budget for follow-up training and for bringing new hires up to speed.
- Research vendor’s website
- Document minimum requirements.
- Document a complete list of added functionality and the requirements of each.
- Comb through the FAQ and/or knowledge base looking for signs of troubles with previous upgrades.
- Check secondary sources
- If the software is widely used, Google the new version to see what horror stories come up.
- Check with CNET and/or other technology-rating companies to see what the experts are saying.
- Ask your IT provider for input, warnings, etc.
- Call several companies who have upgraded before you. Ask specific questions about the upgrade experience, time and cost overruns, hardware problems, training issues, etc.
- New software capabilities, requirements, hurdles, etc.
While they will simplify the research necessary on the internal network, hosted application upgrades can offer just as many challenges as on-premise software upgrades. Training will still need to be considered. Internet bandwidth requirements can be hard to pin down and software vendors are often quite vague about bandwidth required for an efficient working experience with the software. This sometimes requires some trial and error, but you must be mindful of possible issues following your upgrade and act swiftly to provide the resources as needed. It doesn’t take long for most employees to sour on a product if the initial experience is difficult or frustrating.
Lastly, plan the upgrade for the time of year and/or month that gives you the most time to complete the project and work through the bugs. Never try to cram in a major upgrade right before a big annual event, holidays, the start of your busy season, key employee vacations, etc. You’re just asking for misery any time you try to speed up the process.
If you have questions about a planned software upgrade, please call Promethius at 317-733-2388.