Jun 3, 2014

Hesitant to Upgrade? Don’t Be!

by Lisa Weeks, Marketing Communications, MasterControl Inc.

I’m going to date myself with this post, but so be it. At my house, Friday night is movie night, and every week it’s a struggle to find a film that everyone can enjoy; tweens are especially hard to please. This weekend I came across a film I hadn’t seen in years:  the ‘80s slapstick comedy, “The Money Pit.” For those of you who haven’t seen the film, it’s about a young professional couple, Walter and Anna, who think they’re getting the deal of lifetime on a spacious suburban mansion. Unfortunately, their dream home turns out to be a total nightmare. As soon as they move in, the house starts failing apart: the front door collapses, the curved staircase caves in, black sludge spews from the faucets the wiring goes kaput…in short, hilarity ensues. What does this have to do with a software upgrade, you ask? We’re getting there…

In way over their heads, the hapless homeowners soon realize that the once beautiful old house hasn’t been maintained or upgraded in years and is in total disrepair. Of course, this is an extreme, Hollywood-esque example, but it drives home a point that every homeowner watching the film can appreciate: maintaining a home or any worthwhile investment, such as a software system, takes work. Putting off small repairs or improvements to save time or money in the short-term will inevitably cost you more time, money and sanity in the long-term. This got me thinking…

We Maintain our Homes, Why Not our Software?

Why is it that most of us don’t think twice about regularly maintaining our homes, cars, bikes, even our smiles, yet we hesitate when it comes to keeping our computers and software programs up to date? Why does it often take a trigger event, like a total system failure (or perhaps a bathtub falling through the ceiling), for us to take the upgrade plunge?

If you are like most software users, you delay upgrading for a variety of reasons (aka excuses): it’s too difficult to coordinate the schedules of everyone who will be involved in the upgrade process, it’s too much hassle to retrain your end users, you’re afraid of the downtime and/or disruption the change will cause, or, worse, you’re afraid something might break. Yes, upgrading requires a bit of time and effort, but the long-term benefits of updated software—whether it’s an EQMS, CRM, or ERP—far outweigh the short-term inconveniences.
Survey Finds Nearly Half of Consumers Fail to Upgrade Regularly

If you’re an ‘upgrade procrastinator,’ you’re not alone. A 2012 survey commissioned by Skype, the world’s most popular voice-over-IP and instant messaging service, found that nearly half of all consumers fail to upgrade their software regularly, and approximately one quarter of those surveyed admitted that they don’t clearly understand what an upgrade is and/or the importance of keeping their software solutions current.(1) The surprising, some might say alarming, results of the survey prompted Skype; Symantec, the maker of Norton security software; and TomTom, a manufacturer of in-car location and navigation products, to launch International Technology Upgrade Week (ITUW), a global initiative to educate customers on the value of getting and keeping software updated. Even software giant Adobe chimed in to express its support, stating on its blog: “keeping software up-to-date is probably the single-most important advice we can give to users—consumers and businesses alike.”(2)

6 Reasons to Make Sure Your Software Is (and Stays) Updated

Admittedly, downloading an update to your smartphone, tablet or GPS device isn’t quite the same as upgrading a complex business system, such as an eQMS, in a managed environment. However, the reasons for updating, as well as the reasons for not updating, are virtually the same.

Improved Functionality

Although most software providers put every new update or version of their software through a rigorous testing process, bugs can and do sometimes get through; it’s the nature of software development. Upgrades are designed to address these bugs, as well as other situations that didn’t exist when the product was introduced or in previous versions. Using the latest version allows you to take advantage of the fixes and avoid devoting time and resources to issues that have already been addressed. Best of all, bug-free software is less prone to crashing.

Improved security

Software that is not up to date is prone to security vulnerabilities. Upgrading ensures that your system has the latest defensive solutions to help minimize the threat posed by malware and hackers; threats which are constantly changing. Remember the panic brought on by Microsoft’s Heartbleed bug? To stay one step ahead of the bad guys, and protect your company data and critical information, security mechanisms are constantly adapting. From a security perspective alone, staying up to date with the latest patches and enhancements is critical.  

Virtuous Product Development Cycle
Because software solutions are dynamic, market-driven products, they are (or should be) constantly evolving. Therefore, managing them is a continuous process that extends beyond the initial deployment, if full value is to be derived from their use. "Technology and customer needs are ever changing,” said Victor Gill, MasterControl’s senior product manager of cloud solutions. “When customers upgrade regularly, it allows product managers and developers to maintain an ongoing dialogue with their end users. This promotes a virtuous product development cycle, in which new features and enhancements are implemented based on customer feedback and need. When customers don’t upgrade, we miss out on this vital feedback, and run the risk of continuing to invest in features and enhancements that provide our end users with less value.”

Sustained Level of Technical Support

When a company retains the same software version year in and year out, it fails to capitalize on vendor support. As new versions are released, and the majority of users upgrade, less attention is given to older solutions. Some vendors withdraw support for older versions entirely. “Tech support is geared to address the most common issues faced by the majority of customers,” explained Gill.  “Naturally, our tech support team is more familiar with current features and issues, and this is true for most tech support teams, regardless of the solution. Upgrading to the latest version enables tech support to resolve your issues more quickly and effectively.” 

Practice Makes Perfect

We’ve all heard the saying, “practice makes perfect.” Usually the adage is applied to playing a sport or musical instrument, but according to Gill, upgrading skills need to be honed as well. “Upgrading is like anything else,” said Gill. ‘The more often you do it, the easier it becomes, which is why MasterControl is planning to have more frequent and smaller incremental upgrades in the future.” 

It’s Free!
Most software upgrades are offered free of charge to users with a current MSA. Aside from being free, software updates have become much easier and more reliable than they once were. Today’s best-in-class software vendors are continually striving to make upgrading as painless as possible. “At MasterControl, we’ve streamlined the upgrade process to allow for faster, simpler one-click upgrades,” said Gill. “What used to take days, or even weeks, can be accomplished in just a few hours.” If only cleaning out the rain gutters was this easy!

Share your upgrade stories and tips for overcoming upgrade procrastination with me here or connect with me in the MasterControlCompliance Accelerated LinkedIn Group.

Lisa Weeks, Marketing Communications, MasterControl Inc.
Lisa Weeks, a marketing communications specialist at MasterControl Inc., writes extensively about technology, the life sciences industry, and other regulated environments. Her two decades of marketing and advertising experience include work with McNeil Pharmaceuticals, SAP AG, SCA Mölnlycke Health Care, Crozer-Keystone Health Systems, and NovaCare Rehabilitation/Select Med.

(1)   “Survey Finds Nearly Half Of Consumers Fail to Upgrade Software Regularly and One Quarter of Consumers Don’t Know Why to Update Software,” www.skype.com, July 23, 2012; available here: http://about.skype.com/press/2012/07/survey_finds_nearly_half_fail_to_upgrade.html?intcmp=blogs-_-generic-click-_-intl-tech-upgrade-week

(2)   Wiebke Lips, “International Technology Upgrade Week: A Global Initiative to Encourage Consumers to Ensure Their Software is (and Stays) Up to Date,” Adobe Reader Blog, July 23, 2012; available here: http://blogs.adobe.com/adobereader/author/wlips

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