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Part VIII: Seamless Evolution of your OMS

SEAMLESS EVOLUTION OF YOUR OMS

How you and your partner can best support your ongoing technological needs.

The seamless evolution of your OMS--addressing new functionalities, as well as providing regular updates and bug fixes--is one of the key reasons why choosing the right ongoing partner for your OMS is as vital as looking at the features of the software itself.

Why is that?

At several points throughout this series, we have discussed how changes and bugs within software are normal and part of the everyday landscape of evolving technology. And while there is no reason to be intimidated by them, these issues can also quickly become burdensome and cause long-range issues when they are not addressed in a timely manner. 

There are two key areas where having the right ongoing partner helps make this as seamless and stress-free as possible-- in the budgeting and planning process, as well as in their approach to technological support.

BUDGETING & PLANNING FOR EVOLVING NEEDS

The best way to ensure you and your partner work seamlessly together is to plan ahead. Even after you go live, regularly plan meetings with the CFO and agency budget representative. Plan for both the regular software annual maintenance, as well as for upcoming change requests. The Correction agency should consider an annual budget for these system enhancements.

If you aren’t sure what something might cost, simply ask your partner for a quote. Whether it's a potential legislative change that’s already on the state’s agenda, or a new functionality that is routinely recurring as a high priority need, the best way to ensure a timely turnaround is to have addressed the budgetary needs from the agency side as well as alerting your software partner from the earliest point possible. This will save you time in the process by not having to keep a vital upgrade on hold simply because a budget change is awaiting approval.

It’s also important simply to understand how your partner plans to receive these requests. Is there a certain amount of advanced notice? Are all of the change requests categorized as a critical, high, medium or low request?  Do you maintain a parking lot of potential change requests which can be scheduled as part of an upcoming release?  Do you meet routinely with your partner to review the change request and prioritize as needed? Knowing how to efficiently plan for these needs as part of the change request process will allow things to move as quickly as possible once they have received the request.

ENSURING A TIMELY APPROACH TO CHANGES & UPGRADES

But it’s not all just about the budget, process or planning. It’s also about understanding what you can expect once you have submitted your requests and are awaiting solutions from your partner. Regardless if its a defect or change request, it is critical to understand the processes they use to ensure the changes are implemented in a manner that doesn’t leave your organization exposed to risk. 

While this may not seem vital, the industry differs greatly in how one partner may deal with it versus another. Though there are some technology partners with dedicated team members assigned to a specific client, there are others who are frequently rotating which team is responsible for which client. Though seemingly minor, it can cost your agency a good deal of time if you are having to explain your needs to a new representative each and every time-- both in how tiresome the process can become as time wears on, as well as the additional lag time it creates in getting the new solutions implemented.

Additionally, while some partners are constantly addressing a defect or change request the moment it is received, turning around new updates and functionalities as soon as they can, many others take an approach that provides batch updates only one to two times a year. This can ultimately mean that there are months difference in the turnaround time between the two approaches. While one may be able to receive a change request or defect and have a team familiar with the client’s unique OMS so they can begin working on a solution immediately, others may throw it into a big “batch” and send it off to a team who has never dealt with your software before, only to finally release a bunch of solutions at once months later. 

As we mentioned before, the biggest red flag surrounding the lag time and batch updates approach that some software providers take is simply the risk that it can leave you and your agency exposed to. We know that even one defect within a module can leave you exposed to risk, and often change requests can be tied to law changes that are vital to implement as soon as possible, so trying to operate with many pending updates, bug fixes, or change requests--and waiting months to finally receive them--may mean your agency is forced to create workarounds just to ensure you are mitigating any liability. 

Again, pursuing new software features should feel like a normal, everyday part of your technological existence as an agency once you are ‘live’ with a new system. It simply comes down to selecting a partner in your OMS software that will ensure that these processes are handled in such a way that meets your needs on a timeline that works for both parties.

Other Articles

Part VII: What is a Change Request?

What are the best ways to engage in change requests with your OMS technology partner from both a technological and institutional perspective?

Part VI: Best Practices for Maintaining and Advancing Your OMS (part 2 of 2)

What happens if a software bug goes unaddressed? Check out Part VI of our series and learn why it's necessary to address software bugs and defects.

Part V: Best Practices for Maintaining and Advancing Your OMS (part 1 of 2)

So what exactly is a software "bug"? Check out Part V of our series and better understand the need for OMS software updates.