The meaning of the word ‘hysteresis’ depends on the field you apply it to (physics, engineering, biology or economics), but it originates in Greek and roughly translates as ‘deficiency’ or ‘lagging behind’.
In the context of IT, hysteresis means that if you allow your systems and platforms etc to fall too far behind, it becomes harder to catch up again. Leave it too long and you will reach a point where it is impossible or uneconomical to do so.
You may believe you are saving your company money by not updating your systems, but if your infrastructure is getting old and creaky, you will need to do more in order to move forward. Whilst this will enable you to catch up with any competitors who regularly update their systems, it will only bring your up to their level at the time you take the decision to upgrade. It will therefore not take long for you to start lagging behind again.
And by allowing your IT infrastructure to lag too far behind, you risk a negative effect when your applications stop working.
Higher costs, greater uncertainty, more risk
If, for example, your client uses a cloud document management system that is integrated with your own system, you both need to upgrade regularly and at the same rate. Cloud updates typically automatically update for a couple of years, but no provider is willing to continue supporting all the iterations and will, therefore, stop issuing free upgrades, which could leave you both high and dry.
It is the same with any software. Sage only supports three versions of upgrade – if yours is more than three behind the current system, you will be physically unable to update your Sage account. The only way of bridging the gap is to spend time and money doing interim upgrades to bring you up-to-date enough to upgrade again to the latest system; a method that also involves a risk to your data.
On the other hand, if your approach is to keep your system up-to-date, you mitigate the risks.
Timing the ‘magic minute’
If your culture is to sweat your IT assets, do you upgrade all the time or drive it into the ground? If you stand still or reduce investment, you start falling behind – and the further you fall behind the harder it is to catch up. You then need to decide when that ‘magic minute’ is – the point at which you release funds to upgrade so you do not end up so far behind, you are condemned to never catch up or overtake competition, with the consequence that you could be condemning yourself to failure.
It is the same kind of decision you need to take when thinking about replacing your car. Do you spend money replacing it every three years, or opt to keep it going for as long as possible? The latter means you run the risk that the vehicle could break down more often, and there will come a time when you end up spending more on repairs and maintenance than it is actually worth… and you will still then have to replace it.
How often is it best to upgrade?
We are not advocating upgrading your systems every time there is a new release. There is a fine balance between keeping as up-to-date as possible so upgrading is less costly and painful, at the same time as maintaining your competitive edge by not spending every time there is an upgrade.
What we do know from our clients’ experiences is that if, to date, you have opted to do very little but then decide to change strategy in order to upgrade more often, you will need to factor in the cultural changes this will inevitably bring with it, as well as plenty of time for your staff to get used to them.
We advocate that the ‘magic moment’ for upgrades is every 2-3 years. The timescale ensures you do not lag too far behind which means the upgrades run smoothly and have no pain points. These little and often upgrades will keep your staff up-to-date, enabling them to work on efficient systems, making the process as easy and cost-effective as possible.
If you would like to talk to us about upgrading your system and keeping your infrastructure up-to-date, contact us to book an appointment.