Software Upgrade Benefits?

I’ve been thinking about the benefits of software upgrades.

One advantage of many cloud based applications, such as Xero is that upgrades are included in the subscription charges.

There is no need to have a consultant or technical person pop round to the office with disk in hand and take down the system while it is being upgraded, with the hope that what could be done before the upgrade can be done after.  Pre-upgrade testing to minimise the risk of something not working afterwards is all handled before the online upgrades take place.

With cloud applications, new features and fixes for issues are carried out as required with a minimum of fuss and often the user just notices a new button here and there or a message is sent explaining the changes.

All the new documents and readme files are updated and often there are video manuals for users to be shown how to do something.

That is pretty easy compared to the old days of upgrades, particularly where customisation to the product or reports and integrated third party applications are concerned.  For the user of the software the upgrade just “happens”.

Don’t get me wrong, there are times where cloud based applications are not suitable such as a lack of decent internet bandwidth, too many transactions and large files involved, or the application doesn’t yet exist for the industry, which means a cloud application isn’t a viable option.

The reasons for system upgrades in the first place are often not so obvious.  There should be benefits for the business in doing so.  Upgrading to stay within current supported software life cycle of the manufacturer is not a good enough reason.  For sure, if there are new features or performance gains that have a business benefit then an upgrade can be justified.  Nothing lasts forever where machines are involved so if their machines run too slowly or become unreliable within the next year or so then they will get new machines with Windows 8 and by then their applications will be compatible.

A customer I helped recently required Microsoft Office and fortunately Office 2010 was still available as their machines all use Windows XP and upgrading to Windows 8 isn’t an option until their main software is made compatible with that operating system.  Their computer can’t run the latest version of Windows anyway meaning they would need new equipment when the current gear is just fine.  In short, there is no need to upgrade.  There is no business benefit to upgrading, only cost.

I do have some sympathy for the manufacturer of the software who brings out new versions and does not want to tie up resources supporting older versions of the software, and they want their customers to have the best product experience, however, if their customers won’t upgrade to the newer versions then the customer either can’t see the benefits or can’t justify the costs of the upgrade.

There is a risk that should something go awry, the manufacturer of the software will not support the customer… unless they upgrade of course.

Upgrading a system should be done if the new features result in clear, measurable business benefits.

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