Three-year upgrade cycles no longer make sense in cloud-mobile age

Posted by Ron Miller on Jun 25, 2014 9:49:00 AM

7234434266_d0947dcca0_zFor years IT has lived on the notion of stability. You get something working and you ride it until you absolutely have to change. And that made a lot of sense in the mainframe, mini and client-server ages, but it ceases to make sense in a cloud-mobile world.

Monolithic enterprise software packages - whether ERP, CRM, content management or anything else - took years to procure, install and configure. They required huge investments in money and manpower, and once you had them installed and working, you didn't want to mess with them.

Sure, you would apply patches and some updates, but overall if it wasn't broken? You weren't going to fix it.

There was a solid argument to be made for this approach because upgrading cost money and it tended to break any customizations you had made, and when it came to these big systems, chances are you made some pretty heavy duty customizations.

That meant you would be stuck with a program for years. This approach worked for IT, but in the intervening years the vendor very likely did several major upgrades. Interfaces improved. Problems were solved. The software evolved, but most of the customers didn't evolve with it because it was just too hard, too scary and too expensive to change.

For users, that meant they were stuck using what in many cases was ancient technology (at least in technology years) at work, while using slick cloud and mobile technology on their own time. Users weren't amused and the consumerization revolution was launched.

Today, as you consider replacing those ancient systems, you should probably consider cloud solutions. Microsoft, for instance, has been trying to encourage its customers to move to the cloud version of SharePoint for a couple of years. They argue that with the cloud version, instead of waiting for three years for the latest and greatest SharePoint, you get incremental upgrades over time.

The program itself sits in the cloud instead of a local datacenter. That means you don't have to worry about managing it because Microsoft is doing that for you. Customers haven't been quick to accept this approach, but if you have reached the point where you are considering finally upgrading from SharePoint 2003 or SharePoint 2007, then the cloud version might make sense at this point.

With a large program like this sitting in the cloud, you don't have to do nearly as much heavy lifting. SMBs and the vendor aren't tied to years of research and development and developer time spent updating the program before you see it. It's a gradual and more manageable set of changes and the vendor company is responsible for making sure the update doesn't break anything.

In an age when things change quickly, and companies need to be agile and have the ability to try new approaches, it doesn't make sense to be stuck with enterprise software that's years old and was bought when the company was in a very different place.

Nobody is suggesting, by the way, that you rip and replace overnight. But as you begin to evaluate changes to your core systems, ones that have been place for years, and you're considering an update, think about the cloud approach. You could find it frees you to work more closely with the lines of business and end the days of ancient software.

Photo Credit: William Murphy on Flickr. Used under CC by SA 2.0 license.

Topics: Cloud Industry and Technology