Whether you recently went live or have been with Cornerstone for years, release management can be one of the toughest parts of managing your Cornerstone system.
Cornerstone OnDemand conducts four major releases a year with minor patch releases every other week. The four major releases provide functionality updates, UI redesign, and completely new functionality. Some of the updates made are optional, while others are mandatory for all clients.
The updates are also spread across the various modules, so if you are a client 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 six weeks prior to deployment. Start reviewing documentation, videos, and curricula when they become available.
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.
Cornerstone OnDemand releases are one way Cornerstone is growing within their product. Not adopting functionality introduced can have impacts on your organization in the future, particularly if the functionality is forced on you at a later date and you have limited headway to make any necessary conversions. Not participating in the releases and testing forced functionality updates can also have an impact on your current process that would 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 your defined strategy. Remember the end goal of every release is to make your Cornerstone OnDemand deployment better.
You will survive!