Vendor wish list – Making sure an upgrade isn’t a downgrade

Time to upgrade

As an investigator, I rely on my collection of premium databases for hard-to-find information. You’d be surprised what you can’t find through Google. Over the years, I’ve worked with lots of different vendors who offer great products and customer service, and they’re well worth the investment.

To their credit, database providers often upgrade their products or migrate to new platforms. As technology changes and new content becomes available, these upgrades are a necessary part of the job. In the information world, we’re used to change.

Unfortunately, sometimes an upgrade turns out to be a downgrade, and it’s not always easy to clear up the mess. In fact, two recent experiences with “upgrades” have been so bad, they’ve inspired me to add to my vendor wishlist – This time with some suggestions for smoother transitions to new products:

  • Make improvements, not changes – Change for the sake of change is a waste of time. Does your new product actually make search and retrieval any easier? Does it ease our workflow or just make more work? Ask your customers, and don’t assume.
  • Make sure it’s ready for prime time – Thoroughly test the new product before the roll-out, and not just in your lab. Every customer uses your product differently, so ask several from each segment to run their searches to make sure the product works for them.
  • Fix your problems – I’m amazed by the technical issues with these recent changes. “I think you’ve found a bug” shouldn’t be your final answer. Fix it, and then follow up with your customer. If a database isn’t working, I’m shopping for alternatives.
  • Communicate – Keep your customers informed, and check back after roll-out. Let them know about training and submitting requests for technical support. Return their calls quickly and provide frequent progress reports. It takes more than a couple of form emails to accompany a customer through a transition.

The common theme running through this list is personalized communication – Talking to your customers before, during, and after the upgrades to minimize the impact on their time and workflow. Very few database companies get this one right, and it’s a shame.



  • Mary Ellen Bates /

    Agreed, Marcy! When a vendor’s platform transition isn’t reasonably frictionless, I am going to start shopping around and making some hard decisions about what else is out there and what’s good enough.

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