To upgrade or not, that is the question.

The large shopping centres know the answer: if you don’t update and refresh shop fit-outs every few years, the shopping centre becomes tired, customers lose interest, and sales drop.

It was once reasonable to assume that as software matured, the need to upgrade would become less frequent. However, it turns out the opposite is true.

Traditionally, we can think of new software upgrades as a means to fix bugs and flesh out existing functionality. Hence, successive releases perfect the baseline application and produce a more stable platform. This process of iterative improvement infers a finished goal: rounding off the rough edges, smoothing out the wrinkles, and polishing up a shining specimen.

If software applications operated in isolation and the business world remained ostensibly stagnant this model would work. However, customers and competitors do not sit still and technology is constantly changing.

The proliferation of technology is immense; you need only read the first few chapters of ‘The Second Machine Age,’ by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee to understand the impact of exponential growth to learn that “we ain’t seen nothing yet”. Clouds, smart phones, tablets, social media, Internet of Things, and Big Data are now commonplace. As technology emerges there is an increasing expectation—an expectation of use, connectedness, value, need, etc.

Upgrades are no longer about stabilising the baseline application. There is an unrelenting requirement to integrate and take advantage of newer technologies, to not be left behind, and to be able to compete, attract new talent, or win over new clients.

We live in an ever increasingly connected world and this will drive technology upgrades to come more frequently, not less. Organisations that stay current and can upgrade quickly are better enabled to take advantage of new opportunities as they arise.

These opportunities are not always obvious to see at the time. Hence, we sometimes hear the argument “I’m not going to upgrade for the sake of upgrading; that’s a waste of money”. This presupposes the notion that all possibilities can been foreseen and reinforces a rear-view mirror mentality i.e. when I can see a benefit I will move forward. This attitude holds some merit but it destroys creativity and stifles innovation. Technology proliferation and a widely connected user base suggest new ways of working are continually being explored. Creeping stealthily upon us, the work environment is constantly changing around us. By failing to upgrade our myriad of systems, we restrict our ability to grow and be innovative.

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