Upgrading employee software is often viewed as an unnecessary expense that only gives employees bells and whistles that they do not need or will find difficult to use. The decision to upgrade software is a business decision that must be examined like any other decision. However, some of the benefits of upgrading employee software do not show up explicitly on an accounting record or annual report. Often, these are the reasons many employees continue to use outdated software.
Most managers view any investment from a cost/benefit analysis paradigm, weighing the pros and cons of a decision against the investments cost. Such paper and pencil methods of evaluating alternatives neglect some of the “softer" outcomes of investments. When one considers that employee salaries are normally the largest expense in businesses of all sizes, it is worth stopping to consider the impact that upgrading software will have on several areas of employee outcomes.
The purpose of this article is to explore several advantages of upgrading employee software ranging from explicit to the implicit benefits. The explicit benefits are those that can be easily measured while the implicit are those that can be unwittingly hidden from the manager while considering the employee in the decision process.
Increased Security as a Reason for Upgrading Software
The longer a software package has been around and the more popular the software package is, the more the software represents a security risk. Over the useful life of a software package, security holes and the malicious viruses that take advantage of them make a long list of reasons to upgrade to newer and more secure versions of the same software.
Typically, more recent versions of software are safer from a security standpoint, guarding against the security issues present in previous versions. Increased security means less downtime for employees who must wait for a security issue to be resolved before continuing with their work. Lost files can take many hours to recover and, in the mean time, ideas and morale can suffer. Upgrading software can be a preventive prescription to disaster caused by impending security issues.
Reduced Costs as a Reason to Upgrade Software
Although usually associated with hardware, outdated software is also more expensive to maintain than newer versions. As companies grow, hardware and software must grow with them to face increasing demands of productivity. Failing software (as well as hardware) increases costs by overloading help desk personnel with software related failures.
Newer software versions typically reduce or eliminate the problems users faced with previous versions. Failure rates are lower for newer versus older software resulting in fewer service tickets, higher productivity, and lower stress levels experienced by employees. Smoother sailing is the result of investing in software upgrades.
Increased Productivity as a Reason for Upgrading Software
As software evolves from version to version, it often becomes more streamlined, easier to use, and more intuitive to put to work. Since employee salaries are a major portion of business expenses, upgrading software is synonymous with investing in employee productivity.
As a simple example, suppose that upgraded software saves one hundred employees twenty minutes of work per day per employee. Over the course of a 250-day work year, that amounts to an increased productivity of 500,000 minutes or about 8,333 hours per year. That is the equivalent of over four full-time employees. Suddenly, the justification for upgrading software becomes more apparent from an economic standpoint.
Employee Buy-In as a Reason to Upgrade Software
Although the explicit advantages of upgrading software are easy to see, there are softer implicit reasons to consider as well. Suppose that a company extends the life of its investment in software far beyond its productivity threshold. Employees use some software such as operating systems at home as well as at work. Failure to upgrade software may lead to feelings of neglect since employees have access to and can see the advantages of upgrading long before management makes the decision to upgrade. Employees may begin to wonder whether the company is experiencing financial problems since the decision to upgrade software is long overdue. Such signals can lower productivity, decrease employee commitment, and lead to rumors and misinformation regarding the firm’s refusal to act on the benefits of upgrading so obvious to the employee.
The choice to upgrade employee software is one of considering both explicit and implicit factors. The explicit aspects such as lower costs and increased security make a decision to upgrade software tangible since those reasons are measureable. The implicit factors such as increased productivity and employees buy-in are difficult to measure at best and are often forgotten when weighing the pros and cons on upgrading. When considering an upgrade, the smart manager is one who understands that not everything that can be measured matters and not everything that matters can be measured.