Tuesday, June 07, 2005
John Edwards, writing for CFO Magazine, has an article on a trend toward customers going slow or refusing to accept software version upgrades. He writes, "...business customers seem to be responding to software upgrades the way toll-booth attendants respond to large bills."
Edwards focuses largely on corporate resistance to Microsoft's recent Windows XP SP2 upgrade, but implies that the trend can also be seen in business applications. He writes that there is "an increasingly foul mood among purchasers of business software."Makers of such products don't have far to go to figure out who to blame for this vitriol. Years of endless — and regular — software re-releases have soured many corporate executives on the virtues of upgrading. In some cases, corporate customers have found that much-ballyhooed releases are hardly upgrades at all—merely tweaks and fiddles to perfectly good programs. In other instances, upgraded programs have offered an overabundance of new features.I'm not sure this is a new trend. Since the beginnings of large-scale packaged business software in the 1980s, there has always been a segment of the user population that resists vendor upgrades. Such customers may never upgrade from the initial version they install. Eventually such customers lose support, as vendors refuse to continue maintenance on older versions.
Certainly a case can be made for going slow on version upgrades. Oracle's version 11i of its E-Business Suite a few years ago was notoriously buggy, and customers that delayed the upgrade had fewer problems than those that took the new version when it was first released.
But, in principle, one of the reason that businesses go with packaged software instead of custom development is to take advantage of the vendor's R&D effort in maintaining and enhancing the application. If you are going to forgo version upgrades, then I have to question why you made the decision to go with packaged software to begin with. Refusing vendor upgrades increases the likelihood that you will lose support and will ultimately need to re-select and re-implement the application.
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