As with many things in life, progress is not possible without change.And when it comes to your BI software, the same applies. Software upgrades form a critical part of this, which is why I'd like to give you a few pointers to consider next time your software is due for that all-important upgrade. Hopefully, these insights will help to smooth the transition and make your life a lot easier when the time comes.
To start with, make sure you're aware of what the specific upgrade entails by checking the vendor's release notes (a list of the upgrade's functionality). Upgrading can be time consuming, so it's important to ascertain whether you're upgrading for the right set of enhancements, at the right time.
Having said that, there are many sound reasons to upgrade regularly:
- If you allow your application to become too out of date, you might find that the vendor will no longer offer support on your application.
- The larger the gap between your version and the latest upgrade, the more risk you'll experience when you eventually do upgrade due to the amount of changes that could have been implemented.
- Naturally, you'll benefit from many more features and pesky bug fixes by using the most up to date application.
When upgrading, the biggest challenge is to ensure that your data remains intact and consistent through the process.
This can be done using a number of different testing techniques, which includes:
- Off the shelf data compare tools which allow for data comparisons to take place seamlessly to test your data accuracy. These data compare tools can save you lots of time down the line.
- For the more technically inclined, custom-based database logic (e.g. SQL queries) that allows you to write your own custom queries to test your data.
- By using two interfaces, you can compare a generated report prior to and subsequent to your upgrade.
Here are a few more tips to ensure data accuracy when performing an upgrade:
- If possible, try to fix upgrade issues in the pre-upgrade version of your application. Correcting these before upgrading not only lowers the risk but also reduces the post upgrade to-do list.
- Be sure to keep your existing application supported while upgrading and validating your new version. Ideally, it's best to create a completely separate 'playground' environment in which to test your new application, while running the old one in parallel.
- Don't underestimate the amount of set-up and testing time that is required in validating your data. If you start finding discrepancies, the investigative 'drill-down' can be very time-consuming, depending on the complexity of the business logic that has been developed.
- Ensure that your tests incorporate time-critical processes to ensure that they are correct (for instance, run the tests during a month-end process).
- As with any software upgrade, always build-in a back-up or roll back strategy in case anything goes wrong.
At the end of the day, BI software upgrades are something that many of us have to deal with. But thankfully, if you're able to adopt a sound approach towards maintaining your data accuracy, it can become a relatively seamless, pain-free process.