Late in 2020, the WebFOCUS Administrators and the Reporting and Analytics Team coordinated the upgrade of WebFOCUS from version 8.1.05m to version 8.2.06. During post-project analysis, the risks of the past upgrade strategy were discussed. With the traditional approach, upgrades were scheduled and performed when hardware, software compatibility, and/or support restrictions required it. This meant that there were, typically, drastic hardware and software changes that had to be addressed as a part of the process.
In addition to our previous strategy creating risks, it led to our users lacking the most recent and innovative feature set. Until this past upgrade, our users have not had the benefit of using the specialized data visualization tools or the ability to incorporate predictive analytics into their reports and dashboards.
To ensure that our users have the best tools and features in a timely manner and to also mitigate the risks and resource requirements experienced in the past upgrade strategy, we have developed a new strategy.
The New Strategy
This strategy is to first conduct an internal array of tests and then provide the opportunity for customers to participate in the testing process. There will be several communications providing testing timelines, update status, encouragement to customers to perform baseline testing, and coordinating go-live.
For those who are able and willing to test, we will provide guides and recommendations for testing and work with them to address any bugs they may uncover.
While this strategy does not center around a required sign-off from specific customers before the patch is applied to production, all show-stopping bugs will be resolved before any patch is promoted.
Since this is quite a different strategy to what our customers have experienced in the past, it is important to introduce the strategy and provide opportunities for feedback. We must also proactively develop and prepare resources to encourage adequate participation and results from our customers.
As a part of each update, it will be important to communicate the timeline as well as the ITS testing results and recommendations. We will provide testing resources at the start of the user testing period and remind customers to participate during that time, as appropriate.
In consideration of our two largest communities of users, Financial and Student Reporting, these patches/updates to WebFOCUS Production (PROD) will be performed twice a year, once at the end of May then again at the end of November. This will avoid the most demanding times of the year for our customers such as Fiscal Year End processing and Student Enrollment.
The updates to PROD will be preceded by four months of testing. ITS will stage and test the update in the Development (DEV) environment for two months before applying the update in the User Acceptance Testing (UAT) environment. During those months in UAT, users from all communities will be able and encouraged to perform their own tests.
At the start of each update cycle, ITS will perform an update (in place) to the WebFOCUS DEV environment with the desired version of WebFOCUS. Once DEV has been updated, ITS will ensure that the delivered bug fixes solve outstanding issues. ITS will also test the connectivity and functionality of the application from the perspective of each major security role (basic users, advanced users, and developers) within Financial Reporting and Student Reporting.
ITS will identify requirements for documentation and training of new processes and/or functionality. The standard and customary publication of “Getting Started with WebFOCUS version 8.x.xx” will be the primary source of information for users.
Once ITS has completed testing in DEV, the update will be applied to the WebFOCUS UAT environment allowing users to perform their own testing.
As the UAT period ends, ITS will coordinate, communicate, and apply the update to the WebFOCUS PROD environment.