Software upgrades are inevitable in the production industry, and advertising is no exception. But with up to 60% of new software implementations or upgrades resulting in failure or delays, what can we do ensure a smooth transition?

Why upgrades fail

The enterprise market has a pretty long history of upgrading or implementing complex new software, and we can learn some lessons from them. The first is to learn why upgrades fail in the first place. Researchers say there are three main reasons for failure:

  1. Style of implementation: Consider a more incremental approach when upgrading, and give your team enough time to get used to new ways of doing things.
  2. Wrong solution: the software’s features, user interface or workflow doesn’t fit into your team’s method of doing things – this can be fixed by doing proper research into your needs and the software, before embarking on the upgrade.
  3. Vendor issues: this only really an problem if you are upgrading with the help of an external vendor. Things to look for when choosing a vendor: look at their history, their expertise, talk to previous customers, to make sure you are going to get all the support you need to make the change successfully.

Ask these four key questions for a smooth upgrade

Is this really the right software for us?

This is really about research: it’s as much about understanding how you work in the studio as it is about the software’s features and capabilities. How well will the new software fit into the existing workflow? Does it provide all the features you need it to, and is it compatible with other systems you may be using?

This is especially important when dealing with bigger transitions. For example, moving from one publishing/design software to another means studio operators have to deal with a new user interface, and the plugins you might have been using previously might no longer be compatible with the new solution.

Software or solutions that do not fit with your studio’s requirements can create havoc during implementation, requiring heavy customization or ad-hoc workarounds which can introduce delays and inefficiency. Studio operators may also actively avoid using or resist training on a new system which is unsuited for their needs.

Are the studio team on board?

Finishing artists/studio operators are the ones who will most likely be using the new software on a day-to-day basis.

  • Having their buy-in ensures a quicker take-up rate, and a smoother training process down the track.
  • Ensure there is open, two-way communication about the upgrade.
  • Listen to and address any concerns, keep note of areas that will need to be addressed during training, and keep the team updated on progress throughout the roll-out.
  • Understand that many operators would have optimized their workflow over the years, so the upgrade maybe seen as disruptive to their work.
  • Understand their current frustrations. Identify inefficiencies, irritations or particularly time-intensive tasks that the finishing artists currently face.

What adoption strategy to use?

The way you implement change can set you up to either succeed or fail. According to research, organizations who adopt solutions gradually using a phased adoption or parallel adoption method tend to see success 90% of the time. Your solution vendor may recommend a particular method for rolling out their system – and many will advise strategies that take the least amount of time. But keep in mind that you retain control over the process.

  • Consider the type of upgrade you are undertaking and the way your studio works
  • Choose an approach which provides a good balance between risks and speed.
  • If your upgrade is relatively simple and does not involve many changes, a fast transition saves both time and money.

There are three approaches that a studio can use when it comes to adopting a new system: Parallel Adoption, Big Bang Adoption and Phased Adoption. Refer to the table below for a detailed analysis of each of these. Whichever way you choose, proper preparation and clear communication are very important for minimising risks.


How do we make the changes “stick”?

The upgrade and transition process doesn’t end with implementation. Follow up is important because it ensures that the changes you have made actually result in the improvements that you wanted in the first place:

  • Is everyone working in the most effective manner possible on the new systems?
  • Are the new features working as expected and making a difference in your studio’s productivity/work quality?
  • Is the vendor fulfilling their training and support obligations?

Ensure everyone has completed training on the system, and that they are using it in the most effective manner. If needed, provide additional training for problem areas, and make sure everyone knows about the new features and how it fits into the way they work. It’s also a good idea to gather feedback on just how well the new system is working for the operators, provide a forum for things like bug reporting, walkthroughs and discussions of tips and tricks, and encourage open discussion in the team as they go about tweaking their workflow around the new solution.

What success stories have you had when it comes to upgrading your systems? Or have they been mostly nightmares?

And, do you have any particular adoption strategy that you prefer? Why?