When should you upgrade?

April 15, 2016
Business Development Management

What is the right time to upgrade your application? It’s a hard question because it involves a prediction of future outcomes. But if you leave it to chance – chances are you won’t like the outcome.

Time is Relative.”  – Albert Einstein

 Change is Hard

The default mindset for all humans is to not fix something if it’s not broken. And by “not broken”, we mean “no one is on the floor bleeding”. It’s easy to be okay with the status quo and hard to think ahead to future issues, especially when there are so many other priorities fighting for attention. But managers need to cultivate an entrepreneurial mindset and include opportunity cost in the Cost/Benefit analysis. After all, isn’t that what managers are hired to do? Make the best decision by measuring it?

But first – we need to change the definition of “broken” from “on the floor bleeding” to “hmm, this could hurt us”. Here are the warning signs to look for:

  1. Outdated application stack: This one is a deal breaker by itself. If you are working on old server stacks because your application cannot work on a new one you may be opening yourself up to security risks.
  2. Frequent downtime: Does the application go down? Why?
  3. High bug rate: Is your provider unable to maintain a high-quality application?
  4. Performance & Usability: Does the application frustrate your team with slow responsive time and non-intuitive user interface? How much productivity is being lost here?
  5. Outgrown feature set: Your application started out meeting your needs, but as your business has grown is it now a bottleneck? Are you still using Excel to crunch numbers from multiple applications because your reporting doesn’t do it?
  6. Customers hate it: Do your customers like your product/service but hate using your application?

If you answered yes to any of those questions, it may be time to think of an upgrade. You could get the timing of the upgrade wrong, by being too early or too late. Let’s look at the risks.

Too Late?

Upgrading too late opens you up to quite a few risks:

  • Security breach: A security incident will be a major issue for the company and may result is lost trust and customers.
  • The Monthly cost of lost productivity: Usability, performance, and inadequate features mean that your team is doing much more work than necessary to accomplish their tasks and this adds up quickly. This is often a huge cost that gets ignored because lost productivity is not discussed unless managers take an interest and investigate it.
  • Rising maintenance costs: Cost of maintaining an outdated application is money down the drain because those costs will not translate into whatever the new solution will be.
  • Delaying the inevitable: If you are experiencing these costs already, then they are only going to increase over time. The sooner the upgrade, the more you save.

Too Early?

What is the risk if you upgrade too early? You may spend money on a solution that you may later change your mind on. That’s the main one. But if you have been using a legacy application for years, you should have a really, really good idea what your needs are and how the current application is not meeting it. From that experience, you should also be able to get a good idea of your operating and opportunity costs.

So managers, do the math! And make the right, calculated decision for your organization.

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