The digital age brings many great things to our lives. We now access incredibly powerful features from the smartphones we keep in our pockets. Before long, we may well be accessing those capabilities via watches our wrists or in a chip in our glasses. Things are constantly changing, and we benefit.
This march forward also has implications on your business software — whether it’s a web app, ERP, web portal, mobile app, or website. Because things around you are always changing, your software is getting old. And software gets old much more quickly than buildings or vehicles because things change so rapidly in the digital ecosystem. Blink, and you’ll find yourself with antiquated back-end technology.
That puts your business in a bad position, for a few reasons:
- You don’t have access to the latest and greatest functionality that users want and expect
- You aren’t optimized for new kinds of devices—smartphones, tablets, smartwatches, or whatever else may come along
- It’s harder to get support to keep your system working
- Older software platforms and languages have more holes that can become security flaws, because hackers have had more time to attack them
So new technology is, in general, better than old technology. But anyone who has to balance the books knows that it’s not reasonable to rewrite software constantly. If you can’t afford a consistent upgrade plan — or if you haven’t had one in the past—then you’ll need to pick the right time to upgrade your software.
Any software development firm that tells you to update your back-end technology no matter what is out for your money, not your best interest. A true software partner will help you identify the pros and cons of an update, along with the timetable for ROI of your investment.
Of course, there are rock-solid business reasons to update your technology. Here are five reasons to update your software technology that we think you should consider:
The mobile revolution is here. Many B2C websites now see more than half of their traffic come via mobile devices. B2B websites will regularly be accessed by 20-25% of users on mobile. And more and more companies are looking for ways to make internal web apps available to employees who are on the road or on the manufacturing floor.
The older your technology is, the more problematic it is to make it responsive for mobile devices like tablets and smartphones. So if you’ve decided to make a move for mobile, it’s worth asking whether you should include a technology update in the project as well.
In most cases, a technology update won’t be necessary to create a responsive website. But bundling these projects together may allow a developer to make necessary changes in one fell swoop, instead of having to work twice. The result could be a lower total outlay of funds to accomplish both goals.
What will it cost? It depends, of course. But consider this scenario: A mobile upgrade costs $20,000 on its own, but $30,000 if you include a technology update. Doing them separately would cost a total of $40,000. By doing the technology update all at once, you will receive some of the benefits we’ll discuss later in this post, realize positive ROI within 18 months, and save on the total outlay of cash. In that case, a technology upgrade can be justified.
Of course, you’ll want to run the numbers for your specific situation. But our experience tells us that it will be worth your time to get the information you need to decide on whether to bundle your project. So pause long enough to get an answer you are confident in.
Mobile is a necessity for just about every business, and security is as well. You can’t afford for your website or web app to be hacked, because it can take your business offline and cost you sales. A more serious hack of a web application could put customer data at risk, which is an even bigger deal.
The simple truth is that the older your technology is, the more susceptible it is to security gaps. For example, we see clients have far more problem with websites hosted in Joomla or WordPress than we do with the latest version of django and python.
Of course, there’s no guarantee new technology will prevent a hack, nor is there a certainty that old technology will be hacked. But old software is usually more vulnerable software, and so good business risk management should include updates out of old software development technology sooner rather than later.
3. Version Updates
Software platforms aren’t static. New features emerge and best practices evolve over time. The result is software version updates.
If you have a smartphone, you know how this works, because you occasionally get an alert that updated software is available. These updates fix bugs and often add functionality to your system.
With your website or web app, these updates don’t happen automatically. They take intentional effort—which means you need a plan, or a software development partner that has one.
Failure to keep up with version updates can create a security risk. Thomas Hester of Rackspace says that’s especially true for popular, user-friendly website platforms such as WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal. (Notice this is the second time these platforms has come up.)
Your business should have a plan to stay abreast of version updates. But if you have fallen behind, it may be worth asking whether it’s worth the cost and effort to go through the updates step by step, or if you need to consider the option of starting fresh in a more up-to-date software language and platform.
One other note: not every software language or development platform keeps releasing version updates. This is called deprecation in the software world. When this happens, it’s even more important to make a plan for moving out of that platform.
Deprecation doesn’t happen as officially in open source software (like django and python) as it does with a product from a company like Microsoft. But a similar thing can happen when the development community stops working on it because it has gravitated toward other platforms and languages. Again, when this happens to the platform or language used by your web app, portal, or ERP, it’s time for your business to consider an update.
4. Future Flexibility
The older your back-end technology is, the less flexibility you will generally have in maintaining and improving the system. This is because of two key factors:
- Developer support is harder to find because a decreasing percentage of developers will have knowledge of the language and framework the system is built on
- Add-on features are either not available on the language and framework the system is built on, or they are released much later than on newer platforms
Both of these situations mean you cannot update your system, and that means you’re stuck when it comes to fixing bad user experience or filling holes in your business process.
Updating to new back-end technology resolves these problems and sets your business up to keep your web portal, web app, ERP, or mobile app vibrant and useful. We have seen this future-proofing provide significant value to clients considering an update.
One more benefit: Once you take the big leap and update your technology, it’s easier to stay up to date. The incremental steps you will need to take to stay current are much easier to take one at a time when you haven’t fallen significantly behind.
5. New Features
One of the big reasons to keep the software that runs your web app, portal, or ERP current is so that you can take advantage of the latest and greatest features.
Some of this happens behind the scenes. These changes aren’t noticeable to the end user, but they make software work better.
These types of back-end changes that unlock significant user improvements, as well as system stability. These will make your web app, portal, or ERP more beneficial to your customers and employees, while also extending its life. Talk about a win/win.
Your business will realize significant benefits from getting and keeping your software development language and framework up-to-date.
That leaves a final question: What’s it worth to your business?
As you assess what it will cost to update your software, and run the numbers on what kind of ROI you expect to receive and when you expect to receive it, you will get a clearer picture of whether this is the right time for an update.
So do what you have to do to answer this final question well. Engage a software partner to help you do this. Then set a course for a healthy, profitable future for whatever form your software takes — website, portal, web app, ERP, mobile app, or another application.
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