Insight Legal Chairman, Brian Welsh gives us his thoughts on how fast software goes out of date and what you should consider if the software company you use is taken over.
In the lightning-fast age of modern technology, things change at a break-neck pace. While these strides forward are exciting and inspiring, they can also cause concern as we all try to keep up. Software developers are on the sharp end of this as they work to keep evolving their products and to make the most of every breakthrough.
However, what matters to the client is simple – they want to know the software they’re investing in will work well for a decent length of time.
As part of the senior leadership team in three software businesses, I get intel from my teams about customer questions most days. It doesn’t matter which industry their client is in, the question is the same – ‘How fast will this software go out of date?’
It’s a fair question and one that should be answered honestly and openly. Unfortunately, there isn’t a finite answer. However, there are some considerations that you should bear in mind when buying software.
It doesn’t matter who your supplier is, their software will rely heavily on other technologies to make the magic happen. In the complex world of software development, products rely on things like other company’s database software, software language, operating system or another third-party tech as part of their build.
The terrific news is these combinations help software providers deliver exceptional products to their customers. The less terrific news is that if any one of these technologies changes course and becomes incompatible with the product, or if a third-party firm stops delivering altogether, things can quickly fall apart.
As a client, there’s a fail-safe way to know if your business applications are out of date. If you are advised to stick with older versions of technology to keep your software working, it’s a red flag. It might suit you fine to carry on as you are for a time, but it’s a good idea to be planning ahead for a new solution.
Big software companies with huge budgets and millions of users can afford to continuously improve their user interface. As a client, it’s quite understandable that you would want your user interface to be slick, modern and eye-catching. If you see something that wouldn’t look out of place on a Spectrum, your eyebrows will, understandably, move north.
However, it’s a mistake to think that a piece of software is out of date simply because it looks a bit dated. Plus, it’s a bone of contention for developers who prize functionality over visual flare.
Developers would far rather spend months providing their clients with ground-breaking functionality that is a gamechanger for their business, rather than make it look pretty. So, make sure you get all the information about functionality before you make a final decision.
Let’s be fair. If the user interface looks like it was painted on a cave wall, it’s likely to be out of date. However, some visually lacklustre software might still work with all the current technology and perform just as you need it to.
However, software developers would do well to realise that a good-looking user interface is so important to clients that it’s worth the investment to bring it up to scratch.
When you buy software for your business, you’re likely to have made your supplier choice carefully. So, if a few months or a couple of years down the line, that company is sold, it’s a worry. Ownership in software really matters.
When a company is bought, it’s usually for one or two reasons. Perhaps the buyer wants to add this software product to their business so has acquired the company. Or maybe the buyer is purchasing to eliminate the competition. The second type of buyer could quickly take the product you are using off the market because they want their own product to be the only game in town. Suddenly, the software you’ve been using is gone, and you’re being steered in the direction of their software.
If we relate this back to the question of ‘How quickly does software go out of date?’, it muddies the water. In this scenario, you could be using one of the most technologically advanced products on the market, and it wouldn’t matter. The moment the software company is sold, you’ll get pushed towards another product as your current one is decommissioned.
The only thing you can do when making a software purchase is to find out who owns it and how old it is. Armed with all the right information, you can make the best decision for right now. Change is inevitable in the software industry, which is a good thing overall. By shopping smartly with good software suppliers, you can make sure that whatever you purchase can do the job you need it to and has scope to move with the times.