A product upgrade; often those words make even the most seasoned IT or Store Operations professional cringe. Everyone knows that you have to upgrade at some point, but the conversation often starts with how much work (and money) it’s going to take, and the following question is always asked: Is it worth it?
Spoiler alert: It is. Consider the ROI involved. Upgrades are typically focused on big ticket items that will substantially improve your product, but they also include many small patches that may be just the answer you have been looking for in functionality that’s been driving your users crazy. Improved productivity and employee satisfaction are all positive ROI outcomes of an effective product upgrade. There are four simple strategies to make sure you achieve both.
Don’t Skip Project Management
It’s never just an upgrade. Good Project Management is the key to keeping your product upgrade running smoothly. Create a cross-functional project team with clear roles and responsibilities, and then set one project leader. Having team members from across your organization on your project team ensures you don’t get siloed into your own preferences for configurations. Spend time isolating road blocks and hot spots that could stall your project, so you are ready for them when they come.
Set Crystal Clear Business Objectives and Goals.
There is nothing more frustrating for your implementation team than scope creep. Identify your key stakeholders, meet with them first, and pinpoint what they see as the outcome to a successful project. All roads should lead back to that definition of success. Once you have landed on the business objective for the upgrade, don’t get distracted, the job of the project manager is to bring everyone back when objectives and goals are out of sight. Settle on requirements early by listening to the field; they are your end users. They have been using the product day in and day out, and they can tell you exactly what goals you should be reaching for.
Be Open to New Ideas
All of these cross-functional conversations will inevitably bring up new ideas or ways of work. Be prepared to simplify and change the way you currently do something. Is your upgrade successful if you didn’t learn something new? Probably not. Trust your implementation consultants; upgrades require software configurations for functionality that you may not even know exists. Lean on them to give you industry best practices and do the heavy lifting on configuration.
Train, Train, Train
Don’t underestimate the time training will take. Change is hard for a lot of people, and a careless training strategy will guarantee failure in the field. Look at an upgrade as an opportunity to end bad habits and teach a new process. Effective rollouts require a clear multi-level training strategy. Senior leaders need training just as much as the store associates. The boss gets what the boss wants, right? Without their buy in and understanding of the system and how it works, you will never get your field users on board.
Technology moves so quickly you often can’t afford to fall behind because you chose not to pursue a product upgrade. The arc of technology always bends down. This means that the younger generations in the workforce, expect to work in an environment with the latest and greatest versions of software and technology. If you don’t have it, someone else will. But with great project management, clear objectives, willingness to learn and change, and a solid training plan, keeping up with upgrades doesn’t have to be so risky.


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