Adhere to a plan and avoid unnecessary changes.
Posted Oct 31, 2007
There comes a time when you need to take on the daunting task of upgrading your CRM system. Fortunately, the process can go much less painfully than you might think--assuming you keep a few key factors in mind.
Most end users are wary of how a system upgrade will affect their jobs. People tend to fear change, but change can be exactly what you need to improve business operations. You can smooth the transition by giving your users a heads-up about new functionality, and by holding specific training classes.
And yet, even though end users are an important element in a smooth upgrade, the technical aspects of the process should not be ignored. You can help ensure success by following these six key steps:
1. Do a Hardware Evaluation
A hardware evaluation will determine whether the upgraded software will run--and run well--on the current servers and user machines. A common reason for upgrading to a new version of software is to take advantage of new and improved features and functionality. Many businesses, however, upgrade from versions that are more than four years old--and it's possible to forget (or not know) that those new features may require upgraded hardware as well.
To determine whether or not your hardware can handle the upgrade, you will have to access the system requirements. You may find that some existing servers or PCs may not have the power to run the new software.
2. Use the Upgrade Document to Plan the Process
Some CRM vendors provide informative documents to ensure you aren't reinventing the wheel during an upgrade. However, it's important to be aware of your own environment and how it fits into the plan; the upgrade steps may be a useful outline, but they don't take into account your particular circumstances.
It's beneficial to create a plan outlining the places you expect to run into issues, such as customizations and problems with shared servers. These particular business nuances are important to your upgrading process, helping ensure the upgrade itself does not negatively impact other parts of your business.
3. Perform a Test Upgrade First
In order to implement a new system you have to take down the old one. A test upgrade allows you to figure out solutions to problems before the actual upgrade. When performing a test upgrade, first minimize the downtime during the transition and figure out what bad data or customizations will be a problem. Then, when you do the real upgrade you already know where you will have problems and how to quickly fix them.
4. Learn from Prior Upgrades
If you want to make an upgrade happen quickly and smoothly, your best bet is to call in an expert. Once you have seen the same issues resurfacing over and over again, and have completed a few successful upgrades, you'll be able to recognize issues before they become major problems. As a result, your experts will not have to spend a lot of time troubleshooting--they'll already know what the problems will be and how to fix or even prevent them.
5. Do Not Mix New Changes with the Upgrade
When upgrading a system, it can be tempting to tweak a few customizations for yourself, but it will do little good when the personal requests become problematic. By adding more customizations, you create more variables in the upgrade, which hinders the main goal of a smooth and uncomplicated process. (The project team has to figure out if it was the upgrade itself or the additional changes that caused any glitches in functionality.) Minimizing the variables will make it easier to reevaluate in the event you encounter problems after the upgrade.
6. Always Have Your Network Administrator Available
It's critical to always have access to your network administrator because a CRM system generally touches multiple secure networks. Access to each of these networks requires passwords, which must be kept confidential to protect security. If you have easy access to your network administrator, your project won't grind to a halt whenever a password is needed--instead, the administrator can allow access at a moment's notice, and the upgrade can continue.
About the Author
Sam Biardo is the founder and CEO of Technology Advisors, Inc. (www.techadv.com), a business solutions consulting company based in Des Plaines, Ill. Biardo helps businesses improve sales, marketing, and customer service performance. Technology Advisors has provided CRM solutions since 1991 through business advisory, implementation, customization, training, and support services for the top CRM technology.
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