Best Practices for a Successful Software Upgrade

June 22, 2015

By Paul Marini


In our first blog post on the subject of upgrades, we discussed some of the barriers companies face in upgrading their enterprise applications. In addition to concerns surrounding cost – which could be persuasive on its own if there aren't any perceived issues with the software – some companies may have an extensive validation process in place. This not only makes the upgrade process slower and more burdensome; an extensive validation process could also unintentionally create more risk. Although it may be tempting to put off an upgrade until an issue arises, the reasons for upgrading often outweigh any initial costs and trepidations about the process.

Reasons Why Companies Upgrade

Access to New Functionality that Can Help Your Organization Meet Business Objectives: New technology emerges each day, and software vendors will update their offerings to reflect the latest in features and trends that may be relevant to its customers.

Support Regulatory Compliance: As industry regulatory bodies (for pharmaceutical and medical device especially) such as the FDA become more strict with enforcing regulatory standards, companies will need to have the latest upgrades, patches and bug fixes to remain compliant with GAMP 5, 21 CFR Part 11, and other directives , standards, and industry regulations.

Leverage the Latest Performance Enhancements, Increasing the Efficiency of Your Application: Commercial off the shelf (COTS) software developers are always looking at ways to improve their products to reflect any changes in the market, regulations, etc. They are also constantly testing for bugs and other issues where a patch or fix may be applicable.

Remain Eligible for the Highest Levels of Product Support: If you have an older release of a software product, you might find yourself with limited support options. That's because COTS software companies will typically stop support for older versions – or require customers to purchase extended support – as they move forward creating new and innovative products. This is also intended to encourage clients to migrate to the newest release in order to take advantage of any new functionality, performance enhancements, and other technologies that could improve the way they do business.

What Options Have Sparta Systems Put in Place to Ensure a Successful Upgrade?

Sparta Systems created the Upgrade Factory to provide companies with the best way to upgrade with the least amount of risk. By following a repeatable, proven process executed by experts familiar with EQMS best practices, Sparta’s Upgrade Factory helps ensure an efficient TrackWise upgrade.  As part of the Upgrade Factory process, Sparta takes a  holistic approach to upgrading by not only looking at the software, but also the infrastructure that supports it. This approach is designed to support a system that will grow with your organization for years to come.

Sparta Systems uses a three step process to ensure these goals are met.

Phase 1: An Upgrade Factory expert will meet with the customer’s infrastructure team for a week to look at the system and make recommendations to ensure a scalable infrastructure and solution for their TrackWise instance. This optional step, referred to as Tech Advisory, is intended to review the customer’s infrastructure in detail. It is valuable for all customers, but predominantly geared towards larger TrackWise implementations with high usage scenarios.

Phase 2: In this step, the Upgrade Factory team switches its focus from hardware to software. The team takes a copy of the customer’s TrackWise database and loads it into Sparta’s internally hosted sandbox environment. The team will then upgrade the software to the current available version. The delivery architect will then document any issues or areas of the customer’s configuration that require adjustment prior to the actual upgrade. From there, the team will come back to the customer with an assessment of high risk items, discuss new features of TrackWise that would provide value if adopted, show how long it will take to do the upgrade, provide a report of the upgrade, and discuss the testing plan.

Phase 3: The final step is the actual upgrade itself. The Upgrade Factory team performs a remote upgrade of the TrackWise application suite in the customer’s Development and QA environments using what was discovered in Phase 2 of the Upgrade Factory process. This ensures a successful customer upgrade and mitigates risk prior to deploying to the production environment. The customer will then perform the required validation activities prior to Sparta Systems executing the upgrade of the Production environment. Sparta will provide assistance in issue resolution as well as in the creation of a Production Go-Live/Cut-over Plan to ensure a smooth and successful upgrade and deployment.

By applying these best practices to the planning, design, and deployment of the upgrade, there will be a reduced risk of issues prior to and after deployment occurs, less reliance on a customer’s own IT staff, minimized downtime, the ability to use the latest technologies, and maximum return on investment. Any fears about the cost of the project or a less-than-smooth transition will quickly be diminished, and the end result will be a TrackWise solution that fits your organization’s objectives, now and into the future.

For more information about Upgrade Factory, contact us, or read our Upgrade Factory brochure here.

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