The upgrade symphony: Putting together your dream team
“No one can whistle a symphony. It takes an orchestra to play it.”
– H.E. Luccock
“Symphony No. 4 in C major (Requiem für meine Tochter),” composed by Franz Schmidt, begins with a solitary trumpet. One minute into the piece it is joined by strings, building shortly into a crescendo of beauty. After a beat, a harp joins the chorus of strings, adding to the ethereal harmony.
Soon, it is nearly impossible to distinguish when instruments drop in and out of the composition, so wondrously do their sounds intertwine.
I’ve never conducted a symphony, but I have performed in one – if playing the flute in my elementary school band counts – and have been a project manager through many software upgrades. While they might sound like totally different activities, both playing in orchestras and leading upgrades requires precise actions from key players with deliberate timing in order to produce a beautiful melody. If even one piece of your upgrade team is out-of-sync, it can cause your whole orchestra to suffer.
So now you may be asking, who are the players in my upgrade orchestra? And how can I leverage their talents to create a harmonious upgrade?
Introducing the ensemble
The conductor is the project manager. If an upgrade is not assigned a project manager, this duty will typically be assumed by, when our solutions our involved, the OnBase Administrator. If that means you, please note this fact and make your manager aware of it; depending on the size of your organization, this may not be a trivial duty.
It is up to the conductor to get all the proper parties engaged in the project, keep time to the upgrade schedule and ensure the project goes as smoothly as possible. Communication is a large part of this coordination effort.
Your first line of support must keep the rhythm of the upgrade project, knowing the timetables and rollout dates. The presence of your percussion section is persistent and reassuring.
Internal helpdesk and support players perform their melodic roles by staying in sync with the support and training departments as needed. They also provide the front line for internal users.
Server and network administrators are integral to upgrade harmonies. They provide new hardware or VMs, create network shares, and reconfigure DNS and load balancers to keep the beat steady.
Database administrators play a rich and full part in the orchestra, taking and testing restorable database backups. They also keep indexes and statistics updated to establish a performance baseline.
The chorus is comprised of end users. Your end users are going to be the most vocal should anything perform in an unexpected way following an upgrade. It may therefore be in your best interest to get some of these individuals involved in the upgrade process itself.
Not all musical pieces use a chorus, and you’ll find that you may not require end users in the upgrade process. However, choruses are used for some of the most transcendental classical pieces of music, such as Beethoven’s 9th Symphony and Handel’s Messiah. I’ve found that many of the most fluid upgrade processes leverage end users.
If you do tap end users, consider getting them involved in acceptance testing. For our OnBase 16 upgrade, Hyland’s internal application team reserved an auditorium for the day and invited super users from each department for scheduled rounds of acceptance testing. We offered refreshments and played upbeat music throughout the day. Once an end user made it through a test batch of their typical work, they signed off on their testing.
This approach helped make the upgrade to OnBase 16 our best upgrade process yet.
Don’t forget the dress rehearsal!
Remember the old joke, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall? …Practice, practice, practice!”
Before opening night, any orchestra worth its salt will run through their performance to ensure there are no major hiccups. As a best practice, you should do the same for your upgrades.
If you haven’t previously collaborated with the members of your upgrade team, it’s particularly important to communicate the timeline and goals of the project to all upgrade team members in order to unify and align your efforts.
Get each upgrade team member to recognize the important role they are playing and the importance of communication. If an orchestra conductor doesn’t have the trust of their musicians, they’re basically just flapping their arms in a public forum.
If even one instrument in an orchestra is off, the most beautiful symphony can become a discordant dirge.
To ensure your software upgrade produces beautiful music with one accord, make sure your symphony is in sync, is well-practiced and has open communication. Who knows, you might even get a standing ovation.