Sprint triathlons are shorter than the Olympic race and seem like a blink of an eye in comparison to an Ironman event. Upgrades are a sprint triathlon of sorts, you don’t need to plan and train as long as a new Integrated Library System (ILS) implementation, but you do need to be prepared. As there are three legs to a triathlon: swim, bike and run, there are three phases to an ILS upgrade: planning, testing and upgrade. There is a bonus fourth phase if all went well – euphoria.
As a project manager for an ILS upgrade, this is not the time to be seen flailing. You need to be strong with a clear message and plan; communicate the reason for the upgrade. Is your library a beta tester? Will the upgrade eliminate a problem or two? Is there a new feature that you are excited to implement? Anytime there is an inevitable or upcoming change, you can expect a little dissent and fear from your colleagues, patrons or funders. Look at your annual library use statistics and find a time when the library has lower door counts and circulation. You can’t predict blizzards and other natural disasters, but holidays, baseball season and other community events do effect your library. Use data from your ILS , not your intuition and decide the best day and time to upgrade. Once a date is set add to the project calendar multiple training dates and times for staff. If your library is fortunate enough to have a training server to load and test the new software before “Go Live” let staff know when the software is going to be available to them. Communicate any changes to the plan.
This phase in not only a test of your patience, but also your workflow, homegrown scripts and customizations. If you don’t already have a dedicated testing server then take advantage of any training that the ILS vendor provides. If the upgrade has significant changes to workflow give all staff the opportunity and compensation to attend training sessions. If you do have a training server, issues that are revealed and dealt with before the go live date minimize frantic phone calls on day one. If your ILS has an offline mode, have planned fire drills practicing the procedures of circulation and patron registration without the luxury of confirmation and verification, just in case the upgrade takes longer than expected. The last thing you want to do is be blindsided or ill-prepared to handle everyday library business. Keep track of questions that arise during this phase. You might need to log these with the ILS support staff or find “workarounds” to obstacles in workflow before the upgrade.
The big day has arrived, the upgrade went as planned and the phones are quiet. Unrealistic? No. If you planned, tested and trained in the weeks leading up to this moment then show stoppers,obstacles and workflow kinks have already been worked out. Be relieved when the first complaint of the day is “How come my notices print in landscape instead of portrait? It is wasting paper.” Euphoria!