With your initial Epic implementation still fresh in your mind,  you might assume that upgrading your Epic system couldn’t possibly be as much of a highly-integrated process as your initial investment. Unfortunately, that’s often not the case. Epic upgrades can present complex and complicated challenges for teams that are not adequately prepared.

Get Everyone On Board

First and foremost, it’s all about approaching upgrades with a mindset that sets your organization up for success. It is imperative that organizations look at upgrades as a way of keeping pace within rapidly advancing industries, rather than framing them as deterrents that should be maligned. After all, teams need the right tools to stay current and improve collectively. Think of it this way – Epic has already done the heavy lifting by updating the current application, so it’s the organization’s job to get excited about the changes and additions on the horizon early in order to build enthusiasm.

Kick It Off Right

To get started, it’s all about making the basics crystal clear by gathering a team and setting guidelines early. Begin by identifying the core details that can’t be overlooked and detailing the steps that need to be taken, including setting milestones dates for completion, determining processes with step-throughs, defining paths for obtaining guidance in case questions arise and isolating the team must-haves, like-to-haves and optionals. All of these elements need to be addressed during a kick-off meeting that sets the direction for your team. Epic upgrades are major events and should be treated as such through clear communication that walks through each step of the process.

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

After the team is on the same page, it’s time to communicate these details throughout the entire organization through a project charter. By sharing the scope, timeline and budget through proper governance and approval channels, everyone outside of the project group can better understand what’s happening. Buy-in at the organizational level is equally important as buy-in at the project level in order to ensure upgrade success.

Build It

Once you’ve got the go ahead, it’s time to officially start the build by treating it just like the original project. If there was originally a user group that took part in alignment (build) sessions, these should be repeated for the upgrade process, as well. Task lists should be created to keep track of progress. If your original process included an Orion or other tracker, this should be adhered to once more; build it, review it, test it and be ready to deploy.

Test Before You Launch

Once you’ve completed the build phase, your organization most likely has a large volume of regression test scripts in place. These scripts must be modified to support changes applied to the build or configuration. Then, it’s time to go through a full-blown testing cycle – unit, functional and integrational.

Tighten Up Your Your Training

With all of the work that’s going into the upgrade, one area that often gets missed entirely is teaching individuals exacting what’s being changed. This is where trainers come in. Can the upgrade details be shared during normal staff meetings? If not, this might be an opportunity to leverage Computer Assisted Training (CAT) to limit the amount of large classroom sessions that need to be scheduled in order to walk through the upgrade. Your organization’s trainers need to be ready to review their existing training materials and identify any changes that need to be applied, including print materials, newsletters, online trainings, etc.

Share the Impact, Set Expectations

Once the trainings are set, it’s time to communicate the impact that the upgrade will have to the end users across the organization. Without this step, the only members of the organization with a clear view of the changes ahead are those who worked closely on the upgrade process, leaving 90 percent of your organization in the dark. The necessary communication includes messaging around the changes that can be expected once the system gets turned on, where users can turn to for help, training resources available and any support services that may be in place.

Measure Success

You made it! The upgrade switch has been flipped and changes are being experienced throughout the organization, but there’s still a lingering question – How do you know that it’s working? To avoid those “got ya!” moments, it’s integral to establish a baseline before going live. Setting normal levels for visit volume, revenue collection and staff count for usage helps in analyzing upgrade success. These are baseline metrics that should have been developed during your initial Epic Go Live, and they are still extremely important in order to be proactive and monitor potential problems.

By preparing properly ahead of Epic upgrades and coupling it with on-going communication and support following your Go Live date, teams can set themselves up for success when the inevitable changes to their systems arrive.

Learn more about Epic upgrades in our webinar, “How to Plan for Epic Upgrades – Yes, You Need a Plan!” now available for viewing! If you’re interested in continuing the conversation, we’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below.