The Upgrade Dilemma: Change Now, Change Later, or Skip it?

Sometimes, upgrades may not live up to the billing. Before being bold with your association’s software choices, know what you’re getting into.

Let’s face it. Some “upgrades” are downgrades.

Sure, you may get sucked into an appealing pitch when Apple CEO Tim Cook tells you about the amazing things the new default iOS map app — replacing Google’s well-regarded map platform — can do. But, sometimes, that cool upgrade doesn’t live up to the hype.

You know the frustration a cruddy upgrade causes for you personally? Now multiply that by your entire association staff. One bad upgrade too many, and a sense of institutional fatigue sets in. But hold on to an old platform or program too long, and things start feeling creaky.

So what should a good association do? Here are some things to keep in mind:

How much will this hurt productivity? What is the learning curve? Will employees struggle to get their work done under a new platform? And are the long-term benefits to upgrades worth a little short-term pain?

What challenges does this pose? With information technology focused on keeping all the ducks in a row, it’s clear that a larger organization will struggle more with an upgrade than a smaller one. Also, in the case of proprietary or enterprise software, an upgrade may be a costly endeavor. Finally, don’t force it. An upgrade will still be useful if you wait a month for a round of bug fixes.

Would staying the course hold you back? Older platforms may keep you working, but eventually, they may start showing signs of wear and tear that don’t keep with the times. Don’t let consistency turn into stagnation.

Rules of Thumb for Upgrading

Upgrade web browsers early and often. With the web constantly changing, there’s no benefit to keeping an old browser as your online portal of choice — outside of proprietary code that does not work on legacy browsers or in efforts to test your code on still-common platforms. While organizational upgrades are becoming less of an issue, some associations may still lag behind — especially if they rely on Internet Explorer, which remains a slow upgrade for many, according to StatCounter. Old browsers and plugins that aren’t updated also keep users open to malware.

Test operating systems before switching. Major OS upgrades tend to change the nature of the experience significantly, so take care even on mobile platforms. A high cost may dissuade upgrades, especially in the case of Microsoft Windows, but cost isn’t always the deciding factor. Apple released its recent Mountain Lion upgrade for a fairly cheap $20, putting it in reach of most Mac users. Really, the main factor here should be the complication it adds to your work structures as well as compatibility considerations. Even with mobile platforms, you’re bound to run into surprises, as iOS 6 recently proved.

Do you really need to upgrade your productivity software? Unless your employees are generally working on cloud platforms like Google Docs or Evernote, or the program you’re using gains features specifically beneficial to your needs (say, the ability to export to eBook formats or added social media capabilities), consider holding back on major upgrades until they’ve been fully tested. Applications such as Word and Photoshop generally work well years after the fact; programs like InDesign may break compatibility with prior versions.

How often does your association upgrade its software, and what role does employee feedback play in deciding when to do it?

(TMG archive photo)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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