written by Marcus Lansky, Abilitator.biz
It doesn’t matter how knowledgeable you are about your business, there are some things that present challenges each time they happen. Rolling out new software is one of these. However, essential business software, from payment processing and cybersecurity to your inventory, project, and customer relationship management programs, has to be deployed some time.
Here are some tips on how to help you get through the process with your – and your employees’ – sanity intact.
Make an announcement, and make sure all of your teams get it.
Your obvious first step when deploying any type of software is to ensure that everyone from your developers to your product owners and end-users are aware that changes are impending. Taking this a step even further, insist on continual communication between all pertinent parties so that they can coordinate the least disruptive time for changes to occur.
Have a backup plan.
Many softwares, including operating systems, have a feature that allows you to essentially rollback your computer to a time before updates were installed. Before you get started, confirm that this is an option. This is crucial in case of a major snag with the new program. You’ll also want to have backups of data, preferably on the cloud. Depending on the type of software you’re rolling out and the business you’re running, it might also make sense to have at least one machine stay on your old system until your new program is fully integrated.
Develop a strategy for release.
Often, rolling out new software can’t take place in a single day or at a certain time. If this is the case, consult with your entire team on which pieces of your program can be rolled out, when, and to whom. Reasons for a staggered rollout include everything from the need for manual updates to potential issues with communication between your new program and an existing database. If you’re using specialists outside your organization to help bring this software rollout to fruition, make sure the people you’ve hired have a gameplan in place; otherwise, you could find yourself struggling to ensure that all the pieces fit perfectly together.
If your software rollout requires multiple steps, it’s ideal to outline that process and create an efficient strategy for implementation. Consider utilizing a process map template to break out your project into stages. When designing a process map, make sure to brainstorm the steps involved, define your goals and what you hope to accomplish, and order each phase linearly.
Automate where you can.
Deployment automation is the process of using technology to update technology quickly and with fewer man-hours. According to ManageEngine, there are even options available that allow end-users to deploy certain aspects of the software on their own. This is beneficial as it can help to reduce the number of tickets backing up your help desk. Another major benefit of automating the rollout process is that you are less prone to errors. While you must continue to have human oversight, automating reduces manual input, which, in turn, lessens the chances of a miscalculation.
Test continually throughout the process.
Quality assurance is not an act that you perform exclusively after the fact. To ensure that your software rollout is a complete success, you must test it continually throughout the entire process. For example, if you release in pieces, test after each software component is installed. Then, as you build on to your release, test to ensure that each piece works with the other. Finally, test and test again once your rollout is complete. You’ll also want to do a final test before actual deployment before anyone outside of your IT department has had a chance to use your new software.
Understand and identify KPIs.
KPIs, or key performance indicators, are metrics that help you determine whether everything in your software is running smoothly or needs adjustments. Unfortunately, no two software programs have the same performance indicators. Talk with your IT department to develop a list of potential KPIs to review continuously. These may include an HTTP response time, CPU usage on the server, or database performance. Your end-users can also lend a hand here, and you can ask them to identify subtle nuances that make your new/updated software better or worse for your organization.
Master KPI tracking.
Creating a list of your KPIs is one thing, but, to be most effective, you have to have a way to measure and track your performance indicators. Chances are, your KPIs will be custom for your app/software, and your IT department may need to write code to ensure these are trackable. You’ll also need to quality check your KPI tracking to make sure that your metrics are correct and included in your analytics blog.
Even if you are simply updating from one version of the software to another, designate one or more key individuals to confirm that your existing programs, such as your CRM or databases, have fully integrated with your new program. Failure to pull even one column of data in a database can cause a host of issues that can take weeks to track down. Even when you have determined that everything is fully functional, spend some time down the road, perhaps at the 30 and 90-day marks, to confirm that all aspects of your rollout remain functional and that each piece of your software is communicating with the systems that it should be.
Give your customer service team leverage.
Software rollouts can affect your customers. There might, for example, be a glitch in the system that prevents your customer service agents from accessing information, tracking numbers might fail to show up in shipping logs, or there could be a temporary blackout of service. While you know that what you were doing is meant to enhance customer experience, your customers will likely see it as an annoyance. In addition to letting your customer base know that you anticipate potential snags, give your customer service team a bit of additional leeway to pacify unsettled clients. For example, allow them to offer free shipping for clients that experience a service interruption or to waive one month of their subscription fee for other infractions.
Deploying new software is always a nerve-racking event. But, not just for your IT department. However, taking the time to develop a plan, ensuring that everyone communicates, and implementing other measures to mitigate distress across your organization will go a long way toward boosting employee morale during this time. Perhaps most importantly, you must remember and remind your employees that, as technology continues to advance, so too must your company. Growing pains will happen, but they don’t have to halt operations.
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post courtesy of Marcus Lansky of Abilitator.biz