The End of Upgrades: A Manifesto

We’re angry and we’re not going to take it: Upgrades suck, and it’s time that they sucked a whole lot less. Way past time, if you ask me.


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One of the biggest gotchas in the enterprise software market is the upgrade problem. You buy the software for a chunk of money, implement it for another big chunk, and then, as a reward for spending all that time and money, you get to do an upgrade a couple of years down the road.

And if you think that upgrade is free, paid for by the whopping maintenance fees, think again. Upgrades are free, as long as you don’t add new functionality, add new users, try to change the underlying technology platform or database, expand the software’s use into a new subsidiary or other entity, or otherwise make even the slightest change to original system and how it relates to your underlying business model.

In other words, upgrades are the gift that keep on giving, to the vendor, that is. For you, lucky enterprise software owner, upgrades are a black hole sucking millions out of your IT budget on a regular basis, while putting your company literally at risk in the process (more about that later).

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So, in the interest of restoring a little sanity to the market with a catchy slogan, I’m proposing that its time to declare the end of upgrades. Now, to be frank, much like Salesforce.com’s “end of software,” we’re not really going to end upgrades anytime soon. But I think it’s time to serve notice on the industry that upgrades suck, to use a technical term, as in sucking budget, time, effort, good will, and a few unmentionables, and that we’re not going to take it any more.

How do upgrades suck? Let me count the ways. Upgrades can cause massive system shut-downs, preferably at peak periods of commercial activity, that can cripple a business. If you don’t know of a company that this has happened to, you’re not paying attention. And upgrades can destroy reputations and take down governments, or at least their key agencies (ask the IRS about this one). And upgrades are a massive waste of time (ask anyone).

Upgrades for bug fixes are a special case, one that my colleague Vinnie Mirchandani of Deal Architect especially loves for their irony. Here’s Vinnie’s perspective: you buy the software, and pay a maintenance fee so that the vendor can make a profit fixing the software they already sold you, whereupon you get to incur an upgrade “suck” in order to fix the problem that you’ve now paid for three times over (including the cost of the upgrade, of course). Oh my aching…

Continued: Hidden dangers of upgrades

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