Customer Spotlight: Creating a Guide for Upgrading to Cascade CMS 8

By Lauren Murray — Wednesday, August 23rd, 2017 at 11:00am


As Client Advocate, I regularly speak to our clients to gather product feedback. Since Cascade CMS 8 launched in Fall 2016, we have received a lot of positive feedback about the updates. However, one of the biggest hesitations to upgrade that I have come across when speaking with clients who are still on Cascade CMS 7 is how to prepare their users for Cascade CMS 8.

To help with the transition, several of our clients have created comprehensive upgrade guides for their organizations. Over the last several months, I have shared a few of these guides with other clients who are in the process of upgrading to Cascade CMS 8.

In an effort to help you prepare for your upgrade to Cascade CMS 8 and create similar guides for your organization, I have reached out to a few clients to ask about their process and advice for others. I spoke with Erik Gorka at Reed College, Kayla Pierson at the University of Montana, and Todd Smith at Salisbury University to discuss their processes and best practices for creating upgrade guides.

Creation Process

The amount of time spent preparing to create the upgrade guides varied by organization. Reed College said, “we developed the guide over a few months. After installing Cascade CMS 8in our test instance last September, we solicited feedback from a few of our regular users and a handful of student workers who help at our technical support help desk to provide detailed feedback. That process took about two months. Based on that collection of feedback, we honed in on a select few pain points most people encountered.”  

Both Salisbury University and the University of Montana mentioned that they only had two employees work on creating a good foundation for their documentation. Pierson from UMT mentioned, “rewriting our documentation site was the biggest piece of our Cascade CMS 8 upgrade, and most of the training workshops we offered throughout the summer centered around the fact that the documentation existed and was publicly available. Without it, the launch would not have been nearly as successful.”

Best Practices

Pierson said that one of the most successful parts of their pre-launch documentation was a checklist of things to try to get comfortable in Cascade CMS 8 before it went live.



She also said, “this approach really alleviated user anxiety about learning a new interface for Cascade CMS and made the launch happily anticlimactic.”  The web team provided a demo instance of Cascade CMS 8 available to all users for a few months, and they regularly hosted workshops where users could learn the new features.

Both Reed College and Salisbury University commented that they knew their users would be less likely to read a lengthy document, so they wanted to make sure to cover only the necessary topics and include images.



Smith recommended putting the images in expandable blocks so the pages load with the images hidden, making the pages easier to read.


Overall, the biggest piece of advice that was given was to over-communicate the upgrade to Cascade CMS 8. “Make sure all of your users aren’t surprised on launch-day by communicating early and often,” says Pierson. UMT did this by including a timeline on their main page, as well as including links to all previous communication.



All schools felt that the upgrade guides significantly helped with their transition to Cascade CMS 8. Smith mentioned that their more savvy users were even able to skip training all together and rely solely on the document. Gorka commented that “most of my support calls involved pointing people to the guide or reminding them of the email sent previously. For the very small number of people who were put off by the changes, it only took a few minutes of time to show them what to do. The hordes of confused and upset users we expected never transpired.”

The University of Montana’s upgrade guide includes comprehensive documentation on creating, editing, and publishing an asset, as well as site navigation, asset management, coding in Cascade CMS, and training requests, but Pierson says one of their most successful sections is a comparison guide between Cascade CMS 7 and Cascade CMS 8. Many of their users that were already familiar with Cascade CMS 7 started on the comparison guide and appreciated that they had outlined the differences between the two versions.


To communicate the upgrade to Cascade CMS 8, Reed College emailed the link to the upgrade guide several weeks before. It was also included on their network status page, which informs people of scheduled and unscheduled service downtime for the campus.


When gathering feedback on their upgrade, Gorka said,“the document really cut down on our support calls after the transition, and most questions involved re-sending the link to the guide. A lot of our feedback was about how much more intuitive Cascade CMS 8 was than the previous version for doing simple edits and publishes. In addition, a more modern look was praised by our test users. It’s amazing how much an upgraded look and feel mattered to them, even in cases where the functionality was the same.”  

Smith concluded that the upgrade went smoother than they expected, and if he had to do it again, he would have upgraded sooner. His users have really enjoyed the mobile-friendly editing experience, datable grids that are easy to search, and a better WYSIWYG editor. He would recommend for anyone creating an upgrade that they include an easy way for users to provide feedback so that they could know how effective their training material was.

UMT’s transition to Cascade CMS 8 also went very smoothly. Pierson said, “the launch-day itself was pretty quiet and overall anticlimactic (which is a good sign). I asked our student employees for input on this topic and the best answer any of us could come up with was that we should have had a launch party once Cascade CMS 8 went live. If that’s the most dramatic ‘what could you have done differently?’, life is good.”

Please check out Reed College, University of Montana, and Salisbury University’s upgrade guides to help you create one for your organization. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me at

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