For the past couple of years, almost all my work has been doing upgrade training. I’ve worked with small, medium, and large firms all over the country. I have learned some things.
- Upgrades start with a bomb. Most people that work in law firms don’t like change. In addition, partners in law firms don’t like to spend money. These two facts combine to create a situation that usually works like this. At some point enough clients or the right client demands that the firm upgrade to Office 2010. Then some partner negotiates with that client or clients and says by “October 1” we will have all our systems upgraded. After this agreement has been reached, the partner goes and tells the IT director, “you must have all our systems upgraded by “October 1”. The IT director responds “we can’t do that”. And the partner says “just make it happen”.
- Upgrades don’t go according to plan. The IT director puts together a plan. Step 1: we will upgrade the IT staff. Step 2: we will have a pilot group consisting of a small group of attorneys, paralegals, and secretaries. Step 3: we will do one small office. Step 4: we will do each successive smaller office. Step 5: we will do the big office. Between each of these steps there will be a minimum of 1 week to make adjustments. This does NOT happen because the end date is fixed and something unexpected will come up.
- Upgrades mostly work out. In the end, people rise to the occasion and things mostly workout. Nobody dies. Users are able to get work done and life moves on. However, in most cases there is more stress and more things that cause lack of productivity than there needs to be.
So . . . what can you do?
- Negotiate for more money. If the partner comes to you and says “October 1”, then your response may be, “I can do that but you are going to have to give me X dollars to make it happen”.
- Recruit internal people to help. What if you can’t get more money? One solution may be to recruit people outside of the IT department to help. I was once a part of a rollout where we upgraded 300 users in a weekend. Staff was given a checklist that they performed on the machines and the IT staff was there to help. It wasn’t pretty but it got the job done.
- Recruit external people to help. If you can get the money for it, this can be a big win. Hiring trainers, floor support personnel, and technical expertise can make all the difference. This may enable you to do things like do multiple smaller offices at once.
- Make as few changes as possible. If there is one place where I’ve seen big mistakes make, this is the place. The logic that I hear is “if we are going to do this we are going to have to touch every machine, so we are going to change x, y, AND z because I don’t won’t to have to touch these machines again for 5 years”. Dumb. Very dumb. You have to change the Office suite and Windows. Everything else does is negotiable. I once worked for a firm that decided to change their Exchange servers from having one in every office (decentralized) to all in one office (centralize) at the same time as their Office 2010 upgrade. BIG mistake. Another example is upgrading your add-ins (e.g. Numbering and Forms add-ins) at the same time as the Office 2010 upgrade. This is just more change that your people have to get used to. If you can, hold off!
If you haven’t upgraded yet, maybe my thoughts can help. If you have upgraded, I’d like to hear your thoughts. Sound off in the comments.