Every year software vendors introduce new releases and encourage their customers to upgrade to them. Cynical customers often complain that vendors do so largely to justify charging high software maintenance fees. There is certainly some validity to this view. Does it therefore make sense to jump off the endless Carousel ride and just refuse trying to keep up? The case to do so appears to be stronger than usual at this point in time for JDE customers since the current upgrade roadmap does not contain very many dramatic features. Many of the best enhancements target very narrow groups of customers.
One answer does not fit all situations, but in general I believe that software upgrades have to be viewed like oil changes or teeth cleaning – annoying but ultimately necessary. Maintenance is a critical element in the financial model of all software vendors. Oracle seems to be especially astute in understanding how important it is for it to keep the faucet flowing. It has therefore become quite skilled in doing what is necessary to keep nearly every customer in the game.
When a release is announced that offers great direct benefit to your users then there is rarely much debate about putting it in. The more common situation occurs when time passes and you begin to fall further and further behind. Eventually, the date when full support will end looms on the horizon. It is usually possible to get along at a lower level of support, but at that point the hole just keeps getting deeper.
The most important justification for staying no more than one or two releases behind is not always the value of the latest enhancements. Instead it is the way in which out of date software tends to quietly degrade. Customizations sometimes creep in along with more subtle interconnections to other applications that might later need to be brought forward. Planning to stay no more than two releases behind forces a periodic look at the cumulative changes that have occurred and allows you to flush them out.
Many of you will be starting the annual budget process in just a few months. Hopefully you are among those seeing a less bleak financial outlook than was the case when the current budget was formulated. If that is the case consider asking for funding for any overdue upgrades.
In an upcoming posting I will tell provide more ideas on how to justify upgrades. In the meantime, anyone who has had luck convincing their management to invest in staying current is welcome to share their experience.