Four good reasons to upgrade your software
Why upgrading your software makes excellent business sense in today’s “app economy”.
Software applications have become more and more critical to business. Not only do organisations’ core business processes run on complex applications, but increasingly apps are being used to facilitate single functions, for employees, business partners and, critically, for customers.
Businesses need to have a strategy and methodology for staying current on all their software products.
It’s worth reminding oneself that all the various software applications and apps interact with the same pool of data and each other ‒ it’s thus not an option to upgrade just a few pieces of software.
One golden rule to remember is that the further behind one gets in software versions, the greater the pain of upgrading. It is much easier to upgrade from one or two releases behind.
Moreover, some upgrades that are so far behind may require upgrading through each version, or even having to do complete re-installs and re-implementations.
Not only are there more unknowns with version changes but there are bigger learning curves with big jumps in versions and more customisations which need to be taken into consideration.
One golden rule to remember is that the further behind one gets in software versions, the greater the pain of upgrading.
An important challenge is the fact that the corporate IT environment has become so heterogeneous, and will typically include a wide variety of employee-owned devices. Ensuring all the software on these devices is upgraded is trickier than pushing upgrades out to corporate servers and desktops.
A robust and effective programme for keeping software current has several key benefits.
Lower total cost of ownership and improved return on investment
When buying software, the purchase typically includes ongoing R&D; by not upgrading, you effectively miss out on these improvements.
Software that is not upgraded requires more attention from hard-pressed IT staffers, requiring workarounds to fit in with changing hardware and operating systems, and newer applications.
In the main, the older a piece of software is, the more troublesome it is to support.
Improve security and support business continuity
Software is constantly being improved, and upgrades allow users to benefit from them ‒ older software is more prone to unnecessary failures that have been corrected in later versions. These failures translate into lost business and reputational damage.
Another key benefit of upgrading is that newer versions contain vital security updates to plug back doors in the application itself, or counter new threats.
Organisations that did not install Microsoft's security update in April 2017 fell victim to the notorious WannaCry attack in the following month.
The situation becomes more acute when software reaches end of life and is no longer supported by the vendor. In that instance, organisations have to rely on self-service mechanisms with no recourse to the vendor for help.
Future-proof your technology
Technology is famously fast-moving; organisations that can take advantage of new technologies quickly have a significant competitive advantage.
By running the latest version of a piece of software, organisations make it easier to adopt new technologies like, for example, the Internet of things, artificial intelligence and machine learning.
Staying in line with current versions means the organisation can access all-important integration points, as well as all the other benefits.
Improve process efficiency
Software vendors are continuously enhancing current products with new features and functionality in order to improve productivity and make the product easier to use. In so doing, they aim to increase the return on their clients’ technology investments.
Planning is the key to a successful, sustainable upgrade cycle. Once organisations have realised the benefits of upgrading their software when new versions and patches are made available, the next step is to ensure the upgrade process is well managed and leads to predictable outcomes.
Every organisation is unique, and thus time spent in developing an appropriate upgrade strategy will yield good results.
In addition, some upgrades can be handled internally, while others may require third-party assistance.
A good upgrade plan should be informed by a thorough evaluation of options for assistance, in-house skills, and a comprehensive mapping of needs and timing. It should also include concrete steps for:
- Evaluating readiness
- Deploying the new architecture
- Transitioning integrations
- Deploying the production environment
- Performing the data migration
- Driving solution adoption
Companies should consider expert help. There is no doubt that any upgrade has the potential to strain the IT department’s resources, particularly as CIOs reduce headcount to take advantage of the cloud model.
In line with this approach, working with service partners of the relevant software vendors can make sense. These service partners have the experience and expertise to ensure an upgrade goes smoothly and achieves the greatest impact on the business.
They can also structure an engagement to suit the organisation’s needs, from a full-service one to self-service tools to assist in-house resources. Crucially, they also usually offer 24/7 support so that no upgrade is jeopardised.
Another good piece of advice is to join online communities dedicated to the software in question. These communities offer a way to understand the upgrade benefits achieved by other organisations, as well as learn from their experiences.
At the same time, joining a community offers a way to help improve products and processes, and invent new ways of getting things done. Vendors can also provide communities with exclusive access to product roadmaps and other useful information.
Software has become a key success factor in today’s digital, data-driven economy. An effective upgrade strategy is essential to delivering the 24/7/365 uptime required.
Renewals manager at CA Southern Africa