Upgrade or replacement? The clock is ticking. Software vendor deadlines are closing in with the speed and force of a freight train… and if you don’t make decisive moves, you’re going to get flattened.
Easier said than done, of course. There are many complex questions to consider: Does the existing software still meet your organization’s needs? Is it time for an upgrade, or maybe a full-scale replacement? For that matter, perhaps outsourcing is the best option? And what about the cloud?
All software transitions pose enormous challenges. They’re resource intensive, they drive up operational costs, and they threaten to disrupt everyday business activities. Thorough research, careful planning and a comprehensive understanding of your company’s requirements and goals can lead to informed decisions that dramatically simplify the process.
Seamless software upgrades hinge on determining which updates are most critical, and which will save (or even generate) the most money over the long run. Do your research—beyond reading articles like this one, scan online reviews and IT forums for insight. Evaluate the benefits: Is the upgrade going to offer new features and functionality that benefit your bottom line? Will it fix problems you’re experiencing with the current software? How steep is the employee learning curve?
Some of the most compelling arguments for upgrading include:
Legacy software eventually reaches an “end-of-life” status: The developer stops supporting and updating the code, creating security gaps ripe for hacker exploitation. The price of a software upgrade pales in comparison to the cost of a security breach, which can lead to theft of client data and intellectual property, significant network downtime and dramatic customer churn.
Legacy software is often more expensive to maintain than to replace. Software errors and failures can overwhelm IT teams and hamper productivity, leading to additional pay for overtime hours or pricey repair bills.
Legacy software is often more difficult to use, and suffers from glacial load times. Faster, more intuitive software not only yields increased employee productivity, but can also boost worker morale. Investment in technology is also an investment in making employees’ jobs easier and helping them succeed.
Also determine whether you need all of this software in the first place. Management consulting services giant Accenture reports that software is either the first or second largest category of IT dollar spend, with 50% to 60% of software budgets dedicated to maintenance and support. But studies reveal that much of this spend is wasted: Businesses waste approximately $12 billion each year on maintenance fees for unused software, Accenture notes. Verify whether you must continue to support certain applications, or if you can save migration time and costs by narrowing your focus to a reduced number of products and versions.
Software upgrades afford businesses the ideal opportunity to reconsider their overall IT approach and mull philosophical shifts, like whether to outsource their software requirements to a third-party firm. Outsourcing enables companies to reduce and control their operating costs, and to sharpen their focus by shifting responsibility for non-core functions to a trusted partner.
Outsourcing offers businesses access to state-of-the-art tech capabilities—i.e., no more grappling with obsolete software. It also translates to benefits that include reduced overhead costs, bulk purchasing and leasing options, and stronger compliance with government regulations. Outsourcing also makes software costs more predictable, because there are no upfront expenses or variable maintenance charges. In addition, outsourcing offers access to specialized tech expertise and experience that internal IT staffers simply can’t match.
Other organizations may choose to shift their applications from software housed on physical servers to the cloud, which enables employees to access to the same kinds of applications via the internet. Cloud-based services are ideal for businesses with growing or fluctuating bandwidth demands, giving them the flexibility to scale server capacity up or down on demand, paying only for what they use.
Another benefit of the cloud: Servers are off-premise, and suppliers not only take care of them for you, they also roll out regular software updates, including security patches. Cloud-based workflow and file-sharing apps enable staffers to collaborate in real-time. Because all files are stored centrally, all team members enjoy the same visibility into the project. Given the cost and operational benefits, it’s no wonder that 93% of organizations now use at least one cloud-based service, according to a recent survey conducted by IT professional community Spiceworks.
Whichever direction you ultimately choose to follow, make certain that you plan your upgrade in gradual, methodical stages, not one fell swoop. Create a segmented implementation plan and move one function at a time into the new system, following a strategic order based on your company’s most critical needs. Allow your colleagues sufficient time to learn the new tools and processes.
Collaborate with your software vendor partner on all stages of the upgrade: You know your business inside-out, they’re equally well-versed in the technology, and your combined expertise can help address and sidestep the biggest obstacles you may encounter along the way. Your vendor also should be able to ask direct, insightful questions to help guide your implementation plan.
Also huddle with internal power users from across the company, not just the IT staff. Pick their brains to better understand how software is used across different departments, and how it makes their lives easier (or more complicated). Successful implementations rely on user adoption and organizational buy-in, and the endorsement of staff influencers can help smooth potential concerns and quiet criticism from other factions within the company.
Software is the lifeblood of the modern business. Upgrades are rarely painless, but they’re an inevitable fact of life. Carefully following these steps can not only help guarantee the pain is kept to a minimum, but also ensure the maximum return on your investment.