Based on Making the Leap to Upgrade Your Software, featured in Inspectioneering Journal, July/ August 2018 Issue.

Software upgrades typically offer new interfaces, innovative technologies, and improved usability. However, the process of upgrading to a new software version does present some challenges.

While it can be challenging, upgrading your software can also serve as an opportunity to address long-standing pain points, address inefficiencies in work processes, and to realign reliability or mechanical integrity programs to achieve significant improvements. If done properly, a software upgrade will enable you to refresh your program by keeping what you like, discarding what doesn’t work well, and by leveraging new capabilities.

To unlock potential during the upgrade process, the upgrade project should be split into three components:

  1. Define the Path:

Using Front-End Engineering Design (FEED), assess the status of your present reliability or mechanical integrity program and system usage; gain an understanding of previous version’s functionality and work processes; define what “good” looks like; and then define your path forward for your program.

The first step is to evaluate your program and identify areas of improvement. We recommend completing a comprehensive assessment to gain an understanding of the relative quality of your plant’s reliability and integrity programs.

After assessing current state, the next step is to understand how the new version of your software will work. Are there new functionalities? Will you need to create new workflows? Define what needs to be addressed in order to improve gaps identified in your evaluation. You should also be sure to define what “good” looks like by developing key performance indicators to be monitored.

Next, perform a detailed review of your current version’s customizations. Upon reviewing, you will need to determine whether it is necessary to carry the customization forward, return it to baseline, or retire it. The decision made should line up with your site’s optimal work process.

The last stage of this phase includes creating a change management plan for training and supporting the software users.

  1. Go Lean:

This is where the technical execution of the upgrade occurs, using the FEED decisions as an input.

APM projects traditionally follow a waterfall process in which gates are established between project phases. These gates enforce quality by requiring deliverables to pass through them, which ultimately slows progress. Instead of creating this waterfall process, we recommend going lean.

Applying lean principles can greatly accelerate delivery and eliminate waterfall process bottlenecks. Using lean, work in progress flows as activities are performed concurrently. This acceleration is estimated to result in a 20-50% reduction in time needed to complete the project.

  1. Make It Stick:

Post-upgrade, you need to ensure the upgraded software and work process are firmly established. You also need to ensure ownership s properly transferred from the project team to the end users. We recommend the following activities to achieve long-term success:

  • Testing – Continuously test the application for functionality and performance
  • Training – Provide training for end users specific to their roles, responsibilities, and work process.
  • KPI Review – Take a snapshot of KPIs before updating software to have solid pre- and post-implementation metrics.
  • Communication – Clearly communicate to users the business objectives of the project, the business reasons for the project, and the plans and schedule for the initiative is key to ensure adoption of the project.
  • Internal User Group – Establish an internal user group responsible for fostering commitment to the work processes, continued improvement of the application and work processes, and identification of new opportunities.

Conclusion

When upgrading your software, start with fundamentals: assess your current program; align the business functional requirements to APM capabilities; invest in a comprehensive plan; execute lean to deliver faster; and enhance abilities to make the changes stick. Software upgrades should not cause apprehension. Instead, these situations should be used as opportunities to gain more value. Taking the time to focus and align will make the upgrade process smoother and will ensure you are getting out of it what you need.

Are you preparing for a software upgrade?