Launching a new upgrade is generally a stressful time for software companies. It can be very easy to forget some of the necessary steps or simply forget to communicate something to another department. Creating an effective plan is a key part of any release.
A successful plan synchronizes all departments, including Engineering, QA, Marketing, Sales, Tech Support and Training. Everyone needs to have a united mindset and be moving forward in the same direction. If two departments are ready, but another department has yet to complete their tasks, the plan will not follow through or be successful. Coordination and communication between departments and with customers is essential.
In addition to creating a release plan, you also have to prepare for things like backwards compatibility, effectively communicating with your customers ahead of time, minimizing and controlling bugs, ensuring users can install your product, and much more. Before you start planning your next release, take a look at our list of 5 major tips to help you plan a successful release.
Best Practices for Software Releases
1. Go For a Test Drive
When releasing a new upgrade, you want to make sure that your new version is as bug-free as possible. This means testing, testing, and retesting. Performance testing is imperative to ensure that your product works the way you intend it to. Download the upgrade kit and go through the installation process. Make sure your download links work and test out new features. By testing it yourself, you will avoid a lot of customer frustration and easy to answer questions. If your product relies on servers, check and double check to make sure your servers can withstand the load of the new upgrade.
2. Prepare Support and Training Ahead of Time
You also need to ensure that you have proper support available for your users. If a customer is using your new version, chances are that they are going to have questions. Be prepared to respond to and assist customers with all of their questions. It is also a good idea to have tutorial videos available in case the customer needs a visual explanation.
It’s also important to keep in mind that some people may have problems or dislike the new upgrade: listen to these concerns and take note of them, they will be important when you begin to work on future updates.
In addition to Support, keep in mind that product trainers need adequate time to learn about the new features and capabilities. Training will have to alter presentations and training materials in time for classes featuring the new update or version. They will also be working one on one with customers, and will get immediate feedback on issues or bugs.
3. Review Pricing Changes and Impacts
If your upgrade is coming with a new pricing model, you must review the impact that it will have on your company. Sales commissions and support renewal fees could be impacted, which could alter sales goals and potential long-term profits. Taking the time to really evaluate pricing impacts on different departments and the organization as a whole can save a lot of headaches later on.
4. Beware a Premature Launch
With many different stakeholders involved, it can be easy to set a launch date that is way too early for when you’re actually ready. A premature launch can be extremely detrimental to your release and the reputation of your company. Whether the problems are small issues that need to be tweaked, or larger problems that are causing big complications for your users, you cannot risk the reputation of your company by releasing an upgrade with major glitches. Create a work back plan from your estimated date of release to figure out what tasks needed to be completed and when, building in extra time if needed to give you a cushion for any delays that may impact your launch date.
5. Look to Automation for Efficiencies and Time Savings
Oftentimes in the middle of a big project such as a release, we forget to take a step back and look at how a particular task or process can be done better or in less time. Both during the release and after, review your work, keeping an eye on any way to automate repeatable, risk-prone tasks that are particularly well-suited for automation. This will drive new efficiencies the next time around and could make a difference even in the thick of a launch.
By ensuring that your organization undergoes proper testing for the upgrade, provides proper support, and aims for a reasonable, accurate launch date, you can optimize your launch. With a more thought out, prepared launch, you will find more success with your upgrade and your customers will be much happier.