Avoiding the software upgrade headache

Steve Evans

Monday 9 November 2015

Enterprise software upgrades can be a nightmare in terms of costs and disruption. What are the issues businesses face? And how can they be overcome?

People could be forgiven for thinking enterprise software upgrades are a fairly easy process: click a button, agree to the terms and conditions (after thoroughly reading them, obviously), and then sit back and wait for the upgrade to happen. After all, that’s how most people upgrade their smartphones, tablets and computers at home, so why not in the workplace as well?

But we know it’s never that easy, of course. There are a lot of issues that come with starting an enterprise software upgrade project, whether it is enterprise resource planning (ERP), CRM or something else. It takes time, it takes money, and it can be very disruptive to the entire business.

Is it worth it?

Let’s look at the financial side of things. Some companies looking to upgrade their software have faced a cost 75 times greater than the original software licensing costs, while another said it was quoted $490,000 to upgrade one system and $872,000 for another. Remember, that’s on top of the original cost of buying and licensing the software.

Issues can also arise if a company has customised the software to its own needs. When an upgrade rolls around, it can cost a business more time and money in additional support to ensure that the upgraded software works the way they need it to. On top of this, any third-party integration that has been implemented needs to be carried over to the new version, which can cause huge headaches for the IT department.

The fear

Many IT departments hold off on upgrading software until support runs out, meaning they absolutely have to upgrade. For many, it’s because of the fear it will cause downtime, and bring the entire business to a stop while fixes are made and bugs ironed out. That downtime can result in a significant loss of revenue, which will make an already expensive upgrade even more costly.

Some businesses may simply think it’s not worth it. All those negatives for a couple of new features and a snazzy new interface? But upgrades are more than that. Often they will arrive with vastly improved security, and those new features can prove to be hugely beneficial to businesses, driving productivity and increasing revenue.

The cloud can remove a lot of these issues, because upgrades should happen seamlessly in the background. But many businesses still require on-premises software, and will have to deal with the headaches upgrading it can bring.

The key is to ensure a plan is in place to help the upgrade go smoothly; that means involving everyone from project managers to IT. Upgrading a small number of users first, to ensure the upgrade does what it’s supposed to do before rolling it out to the entire business, is a great way to start the process as issues can be picked up and resolved before the entire businesses is affected.

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