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Ready-to-Adopt Release Cycles: Upgrades That Won’t Upend Your Business

Modern product management software doesn’t ask its customers to manage new feature installments. Instead, new releases are ready to adopt on your schedule.

Chances are your company is still using a traditional product lifecycle management (PLM) platform, which means you’re probably used to the constraints of long waiting periods between release cycles or forced updates. 

You’ve experienced the uncertainty of never knowing when the upgrade is coming, though it always seems to be within the next year or so. Always hoping the new features will address what you need fixing, but no idea if they will, or even if they can.

Meanwhile, your IT team is scrambling. They’re trying to learn the ins and outs of the install process, which teams the implementation will affect, and how arduous it will be.

Each time a vendor proposes a new release, the users have to allocate time and resources to ensure that the new features are configured and integrated correctly and that no existing integrations fall over or fail. 

Without any flexibility on the release schedule, resource allocation is out of the business’ hands. Not all PLM vendors offer full sandboxes which can be used to test changes that are coming in new releases. So the businesses are forced into a big bang type of implementation effort when they upgrade all of their integrations. They are forced to revalidate or reintegrate or retest.  

The most advanced PLM solutions are built within the Salesforce ecosystem, allowing their ISVs such as Propel Software the ability to harness the latest technology and make it available for their own customers to meet their business needs on their schedule. 

To solve this, Propel takes on the onus of identifying, building, and adopting the new tech from Salesforce, and delivers these newer capabilities for their customers as ready-made solutions for product value management

Then, they offer their customers a choice whether to implement right away or whenever they’re ready. Modern solutions such as Propel Software offer—

  • Flexibility around how features are enabled
  • Features to be delivered to individual teams or users for testing
  • The choice for customers to receive updates on their schedule

Here’s how it works.

Fast and Flexible Release Cycles

In a traditional enterprise system, new feature adoption is usually a planned activity once every few years, meaning any value added from the product is only ever delivered every few years.

The Salesforce Sandbox deployment model, meanwhile, offers continuous delivery of new features and therefore consistent new value, which users can choose to turn on once they have understood and reviewed it.

The Sandbox works by effectively creating a complete copy of a customer’s database, thereby allowing the specific ISV partner—Propel in this case—to adopt and integrate the latest Salesforce release without impacting that customer’s live production environment. 

The goal is to achieve a new era of fast and flexible release cycles for modern product companies. Fast in delivering features, and flexible for the customer’s release schedule. 

Some key capabilities of modern release cycles:

1. Ready-to-Adopt Features

A standard methodology enabled by the Salesforce Sandbox system allows for all features to be delivered ready-to-adopt. Then, from their Sandbox, customers can choose to review and test these features before implementing.

Plus, the software is versioned, meaning customers can align their integration efforts with the version that delivers the features that they need. They don’t need to be concerned about breaking prior integrations that they've already built.

2. User Groups & Custom Permissions

Today, many traditional systems push releases that impact the entire organization. When using the Salesforce Sandbox, a business can test all the features without having to worry about the impact on its business users (and therefore its product value chain). 

For these cases, a key capability is creating groups of users. This means the IT leaders or administrators at your company can assign specific groups of users and enable features for their own individual or team needs.

Moreover, with permission-based features, you can narrow access down to the level of each feature to allow for testing by whoever that feature impacts most. If all is dandy, the implementation itself is much more targeted and therefore much simpler.

It’s even a bonus on the side of the provider, who can choose to roll out features to only a select group of pilot users, delivering the functionality for everyone else once the pilot group agrees it’s working as expected and delivers additional value. 

3. Feature Flags

When a new feature rolls out, it’s always intended to create business value the users can leverage—but that doesn’t mean it has to be a surprise. Propel, for instance, addresses this with “feature flags” which alert customers about new features and establish what value they can expect to find.

Coming from the Salesforce Sandbox, these features are not only delivered faster than legacy enterprise systems, but they also allow customers the choice to turn on the feature at a point when they're ready to absorb it.

4. The Business Rules  

Sometimes with a new capability, new rules are introduced that may not completely match the company’s current rules or data.

A set of administrator features referred to as business rules, allows the IT leader or administrator to configure fields and to data-load their unique information to quickly and easily override any mismatching rules from the implementation. 

These administrative features are valuable during implementation when correcting data issues that arise where data is not as expected or when new rules are added that don’t mesh with the customer’s data.

Business rules smooth the bumps of implementation to ensure the process is seamless and stays true to the fast and flexible capabilities it promises.

Push vs Pull Release Schedules

Modern enterprise solutions like Propel offer two types of release schedules: a push upgrade schedule and a pull upgrade schedule.

Pull Upgrade Schedule

The pull upgrade schedule refers to the customer’s choice release schedule alluded to above—as in they can choose to pull in the new features when they’re ready to adopt them.

An IT leader at a company with high regulatory requirements (most commonly a medtech or medical device company) will often select the pull schedule so that they can plan for the additional validation to meet those requirements. Some solutions, such as Propel, additionally offer a “validation pack” to streamline the process to meet these regulatory needs.

In any case, these IT teams will need to allocate the correct amount of time to plan; they don't want to be forced into a validation. It needs to happen when they want and how they want. And a flexible release schedule allows them to adequately do so with no surprises.

Push Upgrade Schedule

Many companies will select the push schedule because a) they don't have a dedicated requirement for software validation as mentioned above, and b) they want to stay up-to-date with the latest, most advanced features for performance. These are often the fast-moving product companies with business growth at top of mind. 

With a push schedule, releases are pushed through automatically to help innovative companies remain nimble, never having to question whether they are operating with the most advanced software. 

Companies on the push schedule are looking to get the absolute most value out of their investment because they'll get the features they need, that they’ve asked for, as soon as possible. In keeping up with today’s ever-evolving market, this can be a game-changing capability.

Never Boxed In

Traditional systems often deliver their releases one way or the other and do not offer the choice of push or pull delivery. By contrast, best-in-class software providers know they need to allow for the variables of regulatory requirements or corporate requirements that vary from company to company.

Beyond the choice of push or pull schedules, businesses operating on modern software like Propel and Salesforce are even given the option to switch. They could start on a push schedule and then switch to a pull next year. 

From Sticky Wheels to Champions

When it comes to user adoption, IT teams at almost every company, no matter what industry, are likely to come up against a sticky wheel—someone who's resistant to change because they’re attached to what they’re used to.

As solutions like Propel continuously release new capabilities on a regular schedule, it helps combat any resistance by offering new features designed to streamline operations directly tied to specific customer concerns. 

When concerns are met quickly, even as soon as the very next release cycle, it helps the business drive adoption because the user has immediate evidence that their provider is listening and able to deliver their desired features fast.

More to the point, those sticky wheel users help the provider because they find the areas for improvement. They guide the software developers to continuously build more value into the product—not just for that particular business but for all of them.

Eventually, the reluctant users may even find themselves becoming champions of that software provider because their initial worries were addressed and solved within a couple of months.

People that bring us the strongest objections are the ones that appreciate fast, flexible, feature-rich release cycles the most. 

Read more about the value of Salesforce’s fast and flexible platform in, “What is Lightning Web Components, and Why is it a Gamechanger for Modern User Interface?”.

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Post by
Ron Hess
CTO & Co-Founder, Propel

Ron has deep experience as a technical and innovation thought leader, including 10+ years of experience as a Salesforce architect, evangelist and program manager. Prior to Propel, Ron was the principal architect at Kenandy, building the next generation of ERP on the Salesforce platform.

Fun Fact: Ron is a licensed private pilot glider.

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Ron Hess