Talent Management

Cornerstone Product Releases: How Will You Survive?

Young professional working on laptop in office.
Young professional working on laptop in office.

Christina DeLeonibus

Christina DeLeonibus is a Manager at Educe. She leads Cornerstone OnDemand implementations across multiple industries including Financial Services, Healthcare,…

Whether you recently went live or have had your platform for years, release management can be one of the toughest parts of managing your Cornerstone system.

Cornerstone conducts three major releases a year with minor patch releases every other week. The three major releases provide functionality updates, UI redesign, and completely new functionality. Some of the updates made are optional, while others are mandatory for all customers.

The updates are also spread across the various modules, so if you are a customer utilizing multiple Cornerstone modules, releases will require even more attention. The most frequent question we get from Cornerstone customers is ‘how do I make release management less overwhelming’?

Below are 8 best practices for approaching your next release.

1. Don’t Panic

Keep in mind the list of updates may look long, but once you review the list you may find that only a small percentage impact your company.

2. Be in the Know

Once you receive a release announcement, visit Cornerstone OnDemand’s Client Success Center and start following the Release Community. Become active in the community to stay apprised of changes during the five to six weeks prior to deployment. Start reviewing documentation, videos, and curricula as they become available. Cornerstone follows a milestone approach to their release cycles. Become familiar with what information you will get at each point in the cycle to help with your planning during each release. The graphic below summarizes the information provided during each milestone.

Graphic depicting the information available at each milestone during a Cornerstone CSX product release.

3. Have a Plan

Set a plan of action in your approach to release management. Create a project plan, document who needs to be involved, and identify where on the timeline they need to be involved. Treat release management as a formal responsibility, not an ad hoc activity.

4. Determine Impact

Base your determination of impact on functionality and what roles in the system are impacted. For example, ‘Learning Assignment Tool’ only impacts Learning and System Administrators whereas ‘Goals UI Redesign’ impacts Performance Administrators, End-Users, and System Administrators.

5. Attend the Cornerstone Webinars

The webinars offered by Cornerstone provide useful information and demonstrations while allotting time for questions to be asked. Attend only the ones that pertain to the modules currently implemented by your company.

6. Testing, Testing, and More Testing

Once functionality updates are reviewed and it is determined how your company will be affected, start reviewing your test scripts. Determine what scripts may need to be developed or what scripts may need to be adjusted for testing. In addition, put a plan together for critical tasks performed in the portal and conduct regression testing on those pieces of functionality to ensure updates in the release did not break another process. Start testing once the release goes into the stage portal and all configuration adjustments are made. This will help you understand the functionality and ensure it is working as expected. Report any issues found to Global Customer Support right away. Test not only when the release goes into stage, but also once the release goes into the production portal.

7. Communication is Key

Determine who will be impacted by the changes and communicate early. If end users are impacted in any way, make sure to send announcements out and update any help guides or training that may be available to them.

8. Governance Plan

The biggest hurdle when it comes to release management is establishing how your company will organize and plan for it. Establishing a formal governance model is key. Usually, these governance models include who is responsible for different aspects of the releases and how the communication of the various aspects will be communicated. The roles within a governance model could include Internal IT/System Owner(s), Quality, Business Owners, and Marketing/Communications.  The various Governance boards, steering committees, and executive teams should be aware of updates in the release, how the company will be impacted, and what your team is doing to ensure a smooth transition.

Product releases are one way the Cornerstone platform is growing. Choosing to not adopt new functionality introduced can have impacts on your organization in the future, particularly if it is forced on you at a later date and you have limited headway to make any necessary conversions. Testing forced functionality updates in this scenario can have an impact on your current processes that could result in potential data clean-up or confusion within your organization.

Every organization is different and when it comes to release management, no path will be the same. Knowing what will work best for your company will be central to defining your strategy. Remember the end goal of every release is to make your Cornerstone deployment better.

You will survive!

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