Your IT service desk software vendor has just announced its next version release date. While you have a bit of apprehension about the unknown and what’s changing, the “geek” in you is kind of psyched about the newness of it all – like opening the packaging of the latest shiny tech gadget. It’s got to be better, cooler, faster, sleeker.
You register for the first training webinar of the rest of your life. Logging in, your anticipation builds for what is sure to be a Steve Jobs-inspired piece of work on the other end, with all of the music, lights, production, and roaring crowds that a dial-in WebEx will allow. You do a visual scan of your desk to make sure tissues are in reach because a tear just might be shed.
Let’s do this.
Instead you’re greeted not by your vendor, but a third party consultant.
Ok, you think, they’re busy.
A few intro slides (sans rock music), and what you think was a sales pitch within a sales pitch within a demo, and then it’s time for the good stuff. The first step in getting to the next big thing in software. You hear:
“First, you need to get five new servers running.”
Want to grab one of those tissues now?
Welcome to your upgrade.
The story above is happening right now with one of the largest legacy IT service desk software vendors, BMC, as its customers are upgrading to Remedy 9 (we’re not making up the part about the five servers.)
But this concept is not exclusive to BMC and their Remedy line. The reality is this is still common even in today’s modern SaaS world. As SaaS has settled into its cozy place in the business world, how are legacy on-premise vendors staying ahead of what brought their customers to them in the first place – the concept that SaaS will make work smarter and easier.
It raises the question – how long can these legacy vendors sustain as more people are getting smart to the difference between “cloud” and “true cloud” and making the move from on-premise to multi-tenant.
As you’re evaluating SaaS for your business – whether it’s in IT, Human Resources, Marketing, or beyond, don’t just ask, “what will the software do for me?” Ask, “what will I need to do to make the software work at all?”
Ask your software vendor these questions:
- What does the upgrade training look like? That first webinar you attend to get the scoop on the upgrade process is important. But, as in the Remedy 9 case, you need to go through seven training webinars with consultants. Seven. Be comfortable with the length of the process to get to the starting line before you even take off.
- How many FTEs are required to upgrade? Software giants have created well paid, full time careers for people who just keep the lights on in your service desk software. If you have decided to go with a single tenant solution, you have made the decision to use these resources and pay for them. You just can’t do it yourself.
- Will I need additional equipment to upgrade? You may not need extra servers to run your software every day, but you may need them to move your existing stuff for safe keeping while you work on the update.
- Do my current settings and customizations move with the upgrade? This is not the stupid question it might sound like at first. Some software upgrades will only move a percentage of the customization (and blood, sweat, tears) you have put into your instance. The rest will need to be rewritten. Why is this? Because when a single-tenant software vendor who allows on-premise applications to be customized at each site, it becomes a product management mess. They can’t account for what everyone is doing in their individual solution. They won’t solve for everyone. They solve for the big ones.
- How much time is the average upgrade going to take from me and my team? If you have complicated software, this is going to be a complicated answer. Dig into the preparation time (someone needs to get those five servers into place), and the critical downtime to your service. The entire process can take six months and by then you’re already hearing about the next big release.Be prepared for this.
- If I don’t upgrade now what happens? It’s likely you can tread water for a while, but if you’re on version 7 and you’re vendor is releasing version 9, you may have to do all of the work to get to 8 before even thinking about 9. Also ask how long you would continue to be supported before you’re cut off, or have to pay a ransom to keep the lights on.
- And, finally….What could go wrong?
Legacy vendors will have an interesting challenge as business consumers get more savvy to what they really need and what is available to them. The reality is even your business software can offer you the same upgrade experience of many of the most popular consumer applications. When was the last time you watched a training webinar or opened a manual to get up to speed on the latest version of Facebook?
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