by Scott M. Lewis
We have all been there: We have just finished upgrading our systems and software, and now we’re being told it’s time to do so again. The question is when does the process end? Will I ever be able to stop upgrading? Upgrades are here to stay, but it’s all in the value proposition when it comes to deciding when and how often to upgrade. Upgrades are driven by customer demands for new features and functionality; increased reporting functions; business intelligence enhancements; compliance issues; or compatibility with third-party applications. Since upgrades are here to stay, it’s best not to regard them as negative or a nuisance, but rather to manage them in such a way that the timing and return on investment are worth the aggravation.
What is driving the dislike or fear of upgrading? The most significant negative reaction is based on fear of unexpected changes in the look and feel of the software. Software developers sometimes make you feel the only reason for the changes is to make things harder or force a work process change internally. That’s typically not the case, but customer feedback about how they use the software in the real world often dictates work process changes within the software. Another topic that often comes up is the time it takes to roll out an upgrade. We have all had implementations that took longer than expected, and it can be challenging to explain and support the reasons for those delays. Disruptions to users are essential when planning an upgrade and publicizing positive aspects of the upgrade is vital.
Change is often perceived as “bad” based on habit. Regardless of whether we’re talking about a good habit or a bad habit, words like “change,” “new,” and “different” strike fear in users and organizations because of the unknown. Your staff has spent a considerable amount of time coming up with workarounds, short cuts, or spreadsheets to account for software shortcomings. Upgrades may cause those workarounds to become irrelevant or stop working altogether; however, the changes may be for the better in some cases. When software and hardware upgrades take place, management needs to understand there will be complaints and hesitation. In some cases, it will fall to managers to serve as positive voices in the chaos.
Replacing panic or stress around upgrades with excitement can be challenging. Still, you must remember that your company is one of many. Is it possible that the masses have found a better, more streamlined way to do something or improve your business processes besides the created workaround? An important, pre-upgrade planning step would be to work with your software vendor to see what information is available about the new system. Better yet, are there videos available that could ease the stress? When employees see the proposed improvements, they may decide those improvements have little or no impact on them, or they may see them as a better way to do things. Either way, the stress and fear of the unknown will have less of an impact.
Performing routine upgrades is essential. From a hardware perspective, there are new and faster CPUs, faster hard drives, and increased process power through additional processors. However, the most significant drivers of hardware upgrades are the software and its needs to operate properly on the hardware platform. Another primary driver for hardware upgrades is the age of your hardware. At some point, you could face a lack of warranty coverage or available parts. However, hardware upgrades can provide a more robust and reliable working environment, especially in 2021, when companies have significantly more employees working in home or mobile environments. New hardware or infrastructure can allow you to take advantage of new technologies that will not support older hardware platforms. However, they might create compatibility issues with older software, resulting in an unstable work environment. Hardware upgrades can also provide opportunities to take advantage of new and more reliable mobile technologies or software integrations, and to develop more efficient work processes and increase user productivity.
From the technologist’s perspective, upgrading is critically important for security reasons. The longer an operating system is on the market, the more its weaknesses become publicly known. The more those weaknesses are documented and made known, the more they will be exploited by hackers, malware, or other viruses. Ensuring that patch management is in place is critical to network security. Routine patching is one of the best security measures you can take. Software manufacturers don’t release patches, hotfixes, or other upgrades because the software is perfect. They do so because the mass of users reports bugs, security holes, or other shortcomings within the software that have been discovered and need to be corrected. Improper patching and failing to perform routine software maintenance can create compatibility issues or leave security vulnerabilities exposed.
With inadequate upgrading, you could be missing out on the software’s framework upgrade or the software developer’s back-end code changes, which could contribute to poor software performance or security issues. These framework and integration issues can extend to third-party applications or custom software. Most manufacturers have a methodology for integrating their software with other software that avoids creating security leaks. However, most major software applications don’t typically consider custom applications or third-party apps when releasing a new version. This incompatibility can create security issues or errors in one or both applications.
Watch for Part Two of this article in next month’s Small Business Monthly!
Scott Lewis is the President and CEO of Winning Technologies Group of Companies, which includes Liberty One Software. Scott has more than 36 years of experience in the technology industry and is a nationally recognized speaker and author on technology subjects. Scott has worked with hundreds of large and small businesses to empower them to use technology to improve work processes, increase productivity, and reduce costs. Scott has designed thousands of systems for large, medium, and small companies, and Winning Technologies’ goal is to work with companies on the selection, implementation, management, and support of technology resources. Learn more about Winning Technologies at www.winningtech.com or call 877-379-8279. To learn more about Business Manager 365, visit www.businessmanager365.com.