New versions of most software come out every 18 months or so (sometimes more often). People frequently feel like they are on an upgrade treadmill – no sooner have they settled in to a product and it has stabilized, than they are being asked to upgrade to the newest “latest and greatest” version which supposedly fixes all the problems with last rotten version (which in its time was touted as fixing the problems of the previous rotten version, etc.). Microsoft always seems to be particularly committed to denouncing the previous versions of their software in an effort to get people to upgrade.
How do you decide what to do?
First of all, software vendors have two different models. There is the PCLaw/Worldox model, in which upgrades are included in the price of tech support. In this model, upgrades are “free” (with minimal expense for implementation and upgrade training). Then there is the Time Matters/Amicus (and most other vendors) model who expect you to pay BOTH for support AND upgrades. This makes the upgrade decision much more of a financial issue.
That said, there are positive reasons to upgrade and negative ones.
Positive reasons include some new feature you have been wanting for years, or fixes to annoying problems that have been bugging you. Obviously when you read through the “new feature” list of a product you need to decide which features are relevant to your practice and therefore worth the “price of admission” for upgrading – or if taken as a whole the new features will make your life easier. Or, as increasingly the case with mature products, whether the new features are just window dressing and don’t really add very much to the product. This is increasingly the case with products that insist on a yearly upgrade schedule, such as many products from LexisNexis. In this scenario, upgrading every other version often makes sense.
Negative reasons to upgrade focus on obsolescence. It is prohibitively expense for software vendors to support all previous versions. Typically, they support the current version and the two previous versions. After that the oldest version is “sunsetted” and no longer supported. Since the version is old, it may also become increasingly difficult to find consultants who can dredge up out of the depths of their memory how those old versions functioned. While it is all very well to say “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it,” you really want to avoid a situation where if it DOES break you will be UNABLE to fix it! The potential financial risk in running a product that is no longer supported is simply too great. So, if you have a version that is about to become unsupported, that should be a strong incentive to upgrade.