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Work Technology: A dog’s-eye view of software upgrades

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A recent article in Computerworld caught our attention — "All I Know About Software Upgrades I Learned From My Dog." The author, consultant Rebecca Wettemann of Nucleus Research, discusses the challenges of determining whether an upgrade provides real return on investment — using a metaphor every pet owner can appreciate.

Five years after making "the Fred acquisition," she writes, "there are dogs that appear smarter, cuter and better aligned with my business model. Would I be better off upgrading?" Here's some of her insight:

"At least he's stopped eating your shoes." The benefits of getting new software, like a new dog, have to be weighed against the investment in time and money you've made to address the challenges of the current version. "There may be changes in the software that present new challenges," Wettemann writes. "Although they may be fewer and farther between, they're unknown."

"If it's housebroken, don't fix it." Likewise, deploying a new technology is going to come with its own costs and disruptions that need to be counted against the potential benefits. "If you've already introduced changes in business processes to align with the technology," Wettemann writes, "another shift may incur more training and costs without additional returns."

"Can it roll over and play dead?" New software may promise to do all sorts of neat tricks that you don't really need — and may not simply behave the way you want it to. By upgrading, "you've incurred costs — retraining users, data conversion and IT time, among others — that deliver no real benefits for the organization," Wettemann writes. "The Next Big Thing isn't always enough to justify the costs of an upgrade, no matter what they tell you at the pet store."

"I hear some people like cats." Like a new puppy, a new software solution requires care and feeding — and if your current tech is too high-maintenance, "don't assume an upgrade will alleviate your pain," Wettemann writes. "You may have picked the wrong breed, and looking at a different kind of solution altogether may be a better option."

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