The Upgrade Decision

As budgets are prepared for the coming calendar year, the question of “to upgrade or not to upgrade” often arises. The path to the answer can be complex and require a great deal of consideration. Getting your company through an implementation can be difficult. Upgrading can sometimes be tricky as well. It is essential that some basic analysis is done to establish whether an upgrade is right for your organization and if so, which upgrade path you should follow. The upgrade decision involves several points to consider including:

  • cost of acquisition and implementation
  • total cost of ownership (TCO)
  • performance considerations (such as security, reliability, scalability)
  • and management and operations considerations

With each new release, software vendors increase the value of their offerings and challenge their competitors. There is merit to this claim. You should stay up to date as being current often results in enhanced features, efficiencies and capabilities to handle the latest interfaces. But, how do you examine and learn the real value of the new release, decide what new features drive your next upgrade and make the business case to management in a tough business climate to justify moving to the latest edition? Technology upgrades have got to be about more than just the latest and greatest feature—they have to make business sense. Each new release should be properly assessed to establish whether it brings enough business value to implement, or whether to wait until the next release.

Some analysis will be easy. Perhaps the most important factor in making the upgrade decision is whether there will be continued support of your current release. Bottom line, if the software vendor will be discontinuing support for your current release, you’ve got to upgrade. It would be foolish to continue to operate your business on a release that is not being supported.

You’ll also want to consider your operating system and other ancillary software to think about how upgrading one can affect others. For instance, Microsoft has begun phasing out support for their Windows NT Servers. While NT users plan upgrades to their operating system, they may consider upgrading other software, which resides on this system, at the same time.

Upgrading to a new release on the basis of new or improved functionality alone is a difficult choice. Like any other business decision, it should be possible to evaluate the benefits to your company and the expenses that will be involved in upgrading.

When looking at new functionality, it is important to keep in mind the strategy and goals of your organization. Do the new features support your current goals? Just as importantly, do the new features provide a strategic advantage for your future technology plans? Will upgrading now enable new technology to be added later?

When considering costs involved in upgrading, make sure you look at:

  • cost to support your current release
  • cost to upgrade to the new release
  • how long the new version has been available and whether you want to be an “early adopter”
  • ongoing cost to support the new release

Once you have costs and a business case to present to decision makers, you should also put together an initial time table estimate for the upgrade. Enlisting the support of your outside technology consulting firm is key because, just like the initial implementation, the upgrade will require someone with the necessary expertise to guide a team of technical and functional experts through the upgrade process. Your technology consulting firm has the project management, technical skills, and training with your specific software to get the job done in the most efficient manner and will be there to offer training on new features as well as on-going support. Your outside consulting firm can also provide additional insight into how the applications may work with your business processes and make sure any new or changed business processes are mapped.

If you’re struggling with the “to upgrade or not to upgrade” question, feel free to give IDT a call at 630.875.1100. We’d love to help.

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