The chances are good that, at some point during the lifetime of your company, you’ll have to upgrade or change your IT system. This is an immense undertaking. If done correctly, updating your system can improve your quality of customer support and service provision, gaining you loyal and happy customers. If, however, the system change is badly implemented, this will have a knock-on effect for all the departments of your company and for your clients, whose personal information could be at risk from hackers. Given the importance of upgrading properly, here’s how to and how not to do so.
How Not to Upgrade
You will be upgrading the wrong way if you:
Don’t Plan Properly
Don’t worry about planning ahead for the new system. You’re going to use an ‘on the fly’ approach. You trust your technical people to deliver the new system speedily and professionally, so what are they doing stand around and asking for an internal process audit, cross-department consultation or software evaluation? Just what exactly are you paying them for?
Don’t Vet Vendors or Research Your Options
You’ve met with your vendor’s marketing team, and you really liked what they had to say. They’re head and shoulders above the other two vendors you googled. At this point, it would just be a waste of time to ask for references of other companies that used them, or even ask for input from your own IT team. You picked an off the shelf software system specifically so you didn’t have to spend a lot of time researching it. It’s time to get this show on the road.
Whatever problems you have going live can be dealt with then, right? If you rehearse, there’s no knowing how long you’ll spend fixing potential bugs in the system that might not even cause any issues. Your team’s time would be much better spent dealing with real disasters rather than imagined ones. And you’re going to make sure that they do.
Underestimate the Time and Resources Needed
People always overestimate how much time they’ll need on a project, but that’s no way to get things done. Bold leadership calls for strict deadlines, otherwise the time will just be sucked into meetings.
Don’t Train For the New System
Your IT specialists might need to glance at the specifications of the new software system, but nobody else does. You definitely don’t. After all, you picked this system because it’s supposed to be easy to use. It’ll make your business practices more convenient, so it’s guaranteed to be convenient itself. People will pick it up as they go along.
Don’t Warn or Support Your Customers
Customers like new things. They like surprises. That’s why you should hold off from telling them as long as you can. Don’t talk about the new update on social media, or contact them via email, or ask their views on the matter. Your customer’s will respect your good decision, boldly made without input, and enjoy the increased quality of your services.
If you carefully follow all of these simple steps, then you will successfully alienate your customers, stress out your staff and perhaps even attract the attention of the authorities. When your customers find out that your system doesn’t work, it will be firstly because they will find a drop in the quality of your services. They might get the wrong service or good on the wrong day, shipped to the wrong address, or just find that it is not working well or at all. Their suspicions will then be confirmed when they get on the phone to customer services and find that all your qualified IT professionals are too busy fixing the faults in the system to come to the phone. After waiting for an inordinately long time they’ll either be put through to an automaton or, if they’re lucky, a real person armed with a list of predetermined answers to a list of predetermined questions. Your more resourceful customers will no doubt take to social media to more fully air their grievances.
Some customers may further down the line find out that their personal details have hacked or leaked due to unsatisfactory security, which will help to put their other problems into perspective. Your company’s workload is likely to increase when industry regulators launch an investigation into your business practices. But, depending on the findings of the investigation, your workload may drop off substantially afterwards.
How to Upgrade
To upgrade the right way, you must:
Of course, planning is the first step to a successful upgrade. This will involve realistic time schedules, based on how much time people are expected to need to learn about, discuss and implement the new system, as well as the time it will take to safely and securely transfer customers’ information from the old system to the new. These schedules will need to be updated as the process unfolds, to account for unforeseen obstacles such as bugs or requirements for understanding current processes.
Do Your Homework
Ask any vendors you’re interested in for references. This will ensure that you know who you’re working with. If the vendor can’t provide at least three references, walk away. Consult with your IT team or, if need be, an outside software specialist about what package would best suit your company. It could be that an off the shelf package would be fine for the task, or else you might require a bespoke software solution for a higher cost to ensure excellence of services.
Rehearsals will be able to identify problems that you hadn’t or couldn’t have predicted. Whether or not these problems present a direct problem for your staff or customers, they could represent weaknesses in your security which hackers could exploit. It’s crucial to perform rehearsals under the same conditions that the system will be used, as this will make the rehearsals more realistic and you can more easily identify real problems before they occur.
Warn your customers that the change is going to happen and actively include them in the process. You might want to include User Experience (UX) as a part of the system rehearsals, to get feedback about the software you’re going to implement. Do everything you can to make the transition as painless as possible, for example by asking customers for updated details and upgrading their own software if needed.
Training your staff about the new software, even if they aren’t directly involved in running or implementing it, is vital. It will mean that they can more effectively deal with problems, communicate with customers about their concerns and understand how their department can support the entire company in the transition.
Cultivate and Maintain
The process doesn’t end once the new system is up. It needs to be maintained and adjusted over time, so that your company can get the best out of it. If possible remain in contact with the vendor, as there may be updates to the software you will want to make use of in future.
The biggest consequence of changing software systems is that it won’t be all that noticeable. Your staff will still be doing their jobs, your customers will still purchase and use your services, but all the major problems will have been avoided. Undoubtedly, people will laude the improved speed, convenience and reliability of your business. But this approval wouldn’t be as loud or as monumental as the disapproval the public would voice if you had not followed these simple rules when upgrading.