Planning for upgrades without disruption

Every organization has to perform upgrades on software and equipment, it’s just part of doing business.  The key to successful upgrades is planning the roll out and causing the least amount of disruption.  Disruptions cost time and money, by planning ahead and setting a path forward for a smooth roll out you limit the waste of time and money.


Let’s look at a hypothetical, ABC Inc. is an image processing company.  Over the last twenty year they have upgraded their systems multiple times, the most important piece of software that they’ve upgraded is “Image viewer” the core of their workflow.  Over the years they’ve upgraded image viewer multiple times and are now on image viewer 4.0.  ACB Inc management decides it’s time to upgrade to image viewer 5.0, so they tell their IT staff to relaunch Image viewer 3.0 as a web app and shut down image viewer 4.0.  They then announce that in the coming months image viewer 5.0 will be rolled out and in the meantime staff should use image viewer 3.0 in the web app.


What’s the most likely outcome of this approach?  Staff will not understand why they can not use image viewer 4.0 until the 5.0 version is ready.  Image processing will slow down due to having to relearn how to use image viewer 3.0.  And being a web app image viewer 3.0 has a higher chance of crashing causing a complete halt to all work until the app is available again.  So now ABC Inc. has lower productivity which means they have to pay more overtime to get the same amount of output from each employee, which raises overall operating costs.  And they now have disgruntled employees who don’t understand why they couldn’t keep using image viewer 4.0 until the 5.0 version was ready because management didn’t give any explanation and just acted without offering justification.

A better approach

What could have been done to make the transition smoother?  Image viewer 5.0 should have been built in a sandboxed environment where it wouldn’t interfere with image viewer 4.0.  Then images currently live in image viewer 4.0 should be uploaded to the sand boxed 5.0 environment and experienced staff members should be asked to work in the 5.0 environment to see if results match or exceed the 4.0 output.  These staff members should also be asked to report any flaws or potential improvements found while working with the 5.0 image viewer.  Once the functionality of image viewer 5.0 is deemed equal to image viewer 4.0 training staff should be taught how to use it so that they can prepare training for the staff who will use it.  Once training has been completed then announce a date for the switch to image viewer 5.0 and stick to it.

This style of roll out means less loss of productivity and therefore money.  It also means staff will trust their management to make sure they have what they need to do their job.  Don’t discount this, if staff feels they aren’t taken care of, that will have long lasting effects and will hurt morale in the long run.  Care must always be taken to make sure employees have the most amount of information possible so they don’t feel management is making decisions without regard for their needs.

The power of goodwill

Now what if it’s impossible to develop image viewer 5.0 with image viewer 4.0 still being used?  This is where you explain to your staff the reason.  Maybe ACB Inc doesn’t have the resources to build a sandboxed environment, maybe ABC Inc doesn’t have the money, whatever the reason, just be honest and make sure the staff using image viewer 4.0 understand the reason behind your decision.  Will everyone agree with the decision?  Probably not, but enough of the staff will agree, or at least understand, to help control the few who don’t.  Management needs to utilize the power of the group through open communication, when staff feels they are informed and heard they are more likely to accept changes and will be more likely to help convince disgruntled staff that the change is a good thing.

Key takeaways

  • Plan ahead to minimize disruptions
  • Do everything possible to minimize impact on staff
  • Provide education for new systems and processes prior to roll out
  • Always be as open as possible about changes with staff
  • Listen to staff concerns and address them as quickly as possible


Most employees want to succeed just as much as management. Open lines of communication and showing you are working to make as small a negative impact on them as possible will foster goodwill and more loyalty.  Employees who feel taken care of and heard are more productive and will yield higher results which means higher profits for the company.  Remember open lines of communication and showing you are trying to minimize negative impact will have much more of an impact on morale than pizza parties or company branded trinkets.

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