When upgrading your technology, make a plan to minimize disruptions.

The technology in our lives and in our businesses always needs attention. From hardware to software to cloud-based systems, there is always something new to buy or upgrade. Bottom line, advisors’ technology is in a constant state of transition. Unlike the phrase made famous by Nike, however, you don’t “just do it” when it relates to transitioning to new technology. Everything requires some level of planning in order to realize success and ensure stability.

A commonly overlooked area as it relates to maintaining technology involves regular upgrades to your existing systems. This includes simple software updates and patches for programs such as Java, anti-virus software, browser upgrades, etc., as well as more complex updates to new operating systems and core business solutions. It is important to strategically think about the potential impacts an upgrade can have on your productivity. We all have horror stories: You think an upgrade is no big deal and then you spend the next couple of hours or even days resolving unforeseen issues.

To address this issue, a simple best practice is to identify the best day of the week to implement an upgrade. For example, my preferred day is Thursday afternoon. Overall business volume is generally lighter on Fridays, which provides a lower risk environment to deal with unexpected issues. If the upgrade creates significant problems, then we have the weekend to resolve them or fall back to the original installation.

The bigger the transition you’re making, the more careful planning will be required to ensure successful implementation. When there are a number of variables and tasks involved, a project plan prepared on Visio or Excel can make all the difference in achieving success. Sometimes you might even realize the initiative is more complex than you thought.

A thorough project plan can be especially helpful when a system is used by a majority of your employees. You can use the project plan as the framework to share the information and set expectations with the employees involved. Ideally, you are trying to minimize any surprises. Certainly the benefits of thorough communication are much better than the repercussions of employees not being fully informed. Therefore, employee communication and awareness is a task that should be marked “critical” on the project plan.

Developing various use cases is another best practice for technology transitions. Common use cases involve something you do today with the existing system and how you will complete the same task on the new system. Use cases can range from very simple to very complex, so it’s important to aim for a balance of types and styles. Use cases can also be a testing tool as well as a great training tool.

When done well, use cases provide excellent guidance on when to move forward with implementation. Ideally, they provide the measurement data that helps break through the noise that often influences the decision to take the next step. Once in a production environment, your previous experience with use cases can help you achieve your implementation goals. In fact, examining existing use cases (prior to transition) is a good place to start. This is especially helpful if you are replacing or retiring a legacy system and don’t want to pull the plug too soon.

A final critical question to ask as you think about transitioning your system is what product you would replace today if you could. Too often we know that we are not happy with a system, but we continue to use it. Unfortunately, delay often only makes it harder to move on. With the right attention and focus, you can achieve success in all your technology transitions, ranging from a simple upgrade to the most large-scale and complex project.

Transition Timing

Sometimes a critical factor in a successful technology transition initiative is understanding your timing preference or your adoption readiness. Do you prefer to be on the leading edge of adoption or a later stage of adoption with a new product or system? Perhaps your answer changes depending on the specific solution involved.

Some firms truly thrive on being early adopters and want to provide feedback to work out any bugs in a new release. Other firms simply have no interest in this area and want things to work with minimal issues; they are willing to wait for a subsequent update that resolves known bugs in previous versions. Knowing your firm’s timing preference will influence when you decide to move forward with your technology transition initiatives.

— Read “Are You Getting the Best ROI From Your Technology?” on ThinkAdvisor.