There is a wise old saying by Heraclitus, “Change is the only constant in life.” This is especially true in technology, which is so much a part of our daily lives – personally and professionally. It’s important for your organization to stay current, stay supported, and take advantage of new features, recommendations, security, and maintenance offered by your software partners; just like you do on your smartphone.

So, what can you do to prepare your organization for all this change and ensure you’re fully prepared once the latest and greatest version is live? This can be a challenge, whether the upgrade is a push-button overnight process or a six- to 12-month undertaking with intense testing.

Here are some tips to help you prepare for your next software upgrade.

  1. Familiarize Yourself with the New Features
    • Software vendors typically make release notes available well in advance of a required or suggested software upgrade. Research and understand what is being updated, so you’re not surprised by new functionality and features, once you’ve gone live (or been delivered your test environment). New features often range from necessary security updates to exciting new functionality. Knowing what the changes are, up front, will allow you and your team to take full advantage of all the latest features right out of the gate and reduce potential post-live frenzy. 
  1. Check System Requirements
    • Upgrades typically come with new system requirements, and it’s important to ensure your system can accommodate the new requirements prior to beginning the upgrade. A decision might also need to be made on whether a fresh installation is needed or if it’s suitable to install over a previous version of the software. 
  1. Prepare Testing Plans
    • Once you’re familiar with all the changes and requirements, a testing plan should be developed for all business-critical processes. Depending on the complexity of the software, this might be done after the upgrade has already been pushed live (in SaaS solutions), or it could happen in an independent testing environment with exhaustive User Acceptance Testing (UAT) prior to deploying to a live environment. In either scenario, test cases should be created for end-users to verify their business-critical tasks are functioning as expected after the upgrade.
    • Review your testing plan with internal and external stakeholders, and forward key dates and milestones to anyone affected. Nothing is worse than coming into work one day with a brand-new system and not knowing it was happening! This can set employees back tremendously as they learn the new system and/or need training. 
  1. Define Points of Contact and Contingency Plans
    • Make sure there is a defined point of contact within your organization, as well as with the company providing the new software version. Processes should be defined prior to the upgrade on who to contact (and how) should something go wrong during or after the upgrade. Is there a rollback plan if UAT does not pass? What kind of support is offered after go-live? How do you report issues and potential bugs? You will save a lot of time and potential headache if this information is gathered prior to the upgrade! 
  1. Back Up Your Data! (Repeat – Back Up Your Data!)
    • Prior to performing an upgrade of any kind, a backup of all your data is essential. A loss of even a small amount of data can be detrimental to business. Protect yourself and your customers’ data by ensuring proper backups have been made prior to making any changes.

Change may be inevitable, but it doesn’t have to be painful. And, while upgrading your organization’s enterprise software may be a little more involved than updating your smartphone, with a solid plan in place and a little prep work, you’ll be excited about the change and all the new features and functionality that come with it.