Advances in technology facilitate the introduction of new software products at a faster rate than ever before. In fact, software vendors release new product versions as often as multiple times a month, weekly or even daily. In a highly competitive software market, vendors are under pressure to offer the latest and greatest features that outpace their opponents and meet the needs of their customers.
Given this trend, it’s no surprise that older products are left behind and eventually phased out. When this happens, software vendors try to move their existing enterprise clients to the newer and better product versions, which reduces the number of product versions that vendors need to support. Although customers may want to keep access to older versions of software, the problem is that each piece of software has a finite existence.
Typically, software products go through a four-stage life cycle:
1. Development: This is when the product moves through proof-of-concept and is first brought to market. The software may not be fully tested and could still require technological changes.
2. Growth: In the second stage, the demand for the product accelerates, and the total market size expands rapidly. Some vendors provide software services to their customers in this stage, which include continuous integration, application monitoring, server monitoring, log monitoring, automation testing, scripting tools, source code management, cloud enablement and infrastructure automation. This allows vendors to offer software updates and additional features.
3. Maturity: This is the height of the product’s adoption and profitability. Typically, during this stage, vendors stop making major updates and adding extra features to their products. However, they may offer support services, such as infrastructure setup, remote installations, performance management, performance tuning, and change and configuration management.
4. Decline: During the fourth stage, the product begins to lose consumer appeal, and sales drift downward. Companies begin phasing out their old software products and decide how long to offer support for their end-of-life products. This support may consist of bug fixes, maintaining the code base, providing custom enhancements and re-engineering. Lastly, during this stage, software vendors promote the next generation of their software.
Although software vendors want to move their clients to the latest versions, users may be a bit more resistant. For example, companies can be limited on their software upgrade frequency by a variety of factors, including financial costs as well as available time and information technology (IT) resources to transition all users within the company to the new software. In other cases, some users just prefer the features of the older version and feel that it suits their needs, which makes upgrading seem unnecessary.
However, as different software programs are upgraded, they become incompatible with legacy software. If such legacy software is used to run company operations, for example, and other software programs are incompatible with this key piece of software, the company could have major challenges.
There also are cybersecurity issues related to using older, nonsupported software. These programs do not receive security updates and therefore are more vulnerable to cyberattacks. Again, if this software is a key part of operations, companies could run into some major issues if it is left unsecured. A lack of security also could open a company up to legal or regulatory issues if they are required to maintain a certain level of technology security.
Other drawbacks to not staying up-to-date on the latest software include the following:
- The software’s reliability decreases over time, leading to more frequent crashing of the software applications and maintenance issues with the computers.
- If the organization’s customers use newer software versions, software incompatibility issues will occur more often.
- Employees’ skills will become outdated because they are used to using only older versions of software products.
- Operating costs may be higher with running end-of-life software because of necessary maintenance and debugging, especially when critical applications fail.
Companies do not necessarily have to be early adopters of new software, but it is critical to make updates frequently to keep your company’s computer network progressing. When in doubt, talk to your IT professionals and software representatives to determine if an update is necessary, what features and benefits the update offers, and when is the best time to update.