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How to update your enterprise software the right way

by Julia Pickar
 
The dreaded enterprise software update. Here’s how to do it right…

​Veteran CIOs would caution: never underestimate how time-consuming the software update process can be.

It’s time for another software update. Yes, it could bring some smart, new features everyone will be raving about, but let’s face it: the process can be a nightmare. And it’s a nightmare that is recurring more and more frequently these days.

Twenty years ago, the average time between software upgrades was three years. Today? It can be half that. Everyone from IT to sales to finance is affected when a new version of Microsoft’s productivity suite or new ERP software arrives. It requires additional training. It can disable customization from the previous version. And finally, it’s expensive.

Here are four major questions CIOs should consider before putting their company through an enterprise software update:
 

1. Is it the right time?

Software updates are never simple. At the very minimum, it’s a 3-step process prior to roll out: (1) install software (2) integrate with other systems (3) test extensively. Veteran CIOs would caution: never underestimate how time-consuming this process can be. Carefully consider the best time to execute the update. How many long-term projects will be affected by installing the new release? How can the impact of the rollout be minimized throughout the company?
 

2. Is it worth it financially?

You know what’s hard to stomach? Upgrade costs that are almost as much as the cost of initial deployment. Whether you are upgrading ERP, CRM, supply chain management systems, or any other major enterprise software product, costs are skyrocketing. Gartner Group1 finds that enterprise software upgrades can run as much as 30 percent of the original software installation price. Companies are seriously considering whether it’s worth it. What is the cost of all resources dedicated to executing a clean rollout? Whether it’s lost productivity during training or consultants needed to figure out version compatibility issues, it’s important to tally the true cost of the upgrade. Then it’s time to ask the question: if new enhancements are relatively minor, it is worth it to update?
 

3. Do we have a high level evangelist?

The IT department can often guide the company through enterprise software updates, but sometimes more guidance is required. Companies benefit greatly from handling upgrades though a multi-departmental process. To ensure the smoothest rollout of an enterprise software update, an individual evangelist – ideally a top executive – should physically lead the change. A written plan is nothing without an earnest and passionate leader behind it.

Even better, when it comes to overseeing the upgrade of say, an ERP system, companies find it helpful to create cross-functional teams of IT and business people. Heavy-duty users of the software can lead their individual departments, keeping teammates up-to-speed on the system. Business people inherently understand how the upgrade is going to affect their department and provide insight into whether upgrading is even worth it.
 

4. Will the update create compatibility problems?

One of the greatest headaches CIOs face are compatibility problems with new versions of enterprise software. When companies have built in custom coding to the previous version of the software, upgrading might disable the customization. Extra time and cost could be required to make customizations compatible with the new release. In some cases, upgrading an extremely customized program can be many, many times the cost of the actual upgrade. Again, the question arises: is the update worth the effort and cost of customizing all over again?

Do the benefits of a software update outweigh the disadvantages?

Getting ready for an enterprise software update requires a hard look at the training, customization, and expense it will require.
 

Final thoughts

Getting ready for an enterprise software update requires a hard look at the training, customization, and expense it will require. Determine whether new features will offset the discomfort (or chaos) the update might cause your company. And with the right planning and rollout, maybe it doesn’t have to be a nightmare.
 
Julia Pickar
Julia Pickar is a Portland-based broadcast and print journalist. She has produced stories for NPR, Marketplace, BBC, regional public radio stations as well as serving as a producer on multiple public radio shows including nationally syndicated “To the Point” out of LA. Julia also blogs for numerous start-ups, specializing in social media marketing.
 
 
1  Christopher Koch. "Enterprise Software Upgrades: Less Pain, More Gain." CIO Magazine. http://www.cio.com/article/2440405/enterprise-resource-planning/enterprise-software-upgrades--less-pain--more-gain.html