Nothing stays the same with technology. Pace of new product introduction is ever increasing with an associated increase in the need to patch and update those products. As an essential part of maintaining Commercial Off The Shelf (CoTs) products, upgrades are part of the life of IT professionals. And they are occurring more frequently. Like for like, also known as a technical upgrade, is one means of controlling change scope for this type of project. It may not be a means of reducing the pace but by controlling the scope, we are enabling some control over the effort.
A recent example of increase in pace of product upgrades is Microsoft’s introduction of “Windows as a service“. If you count a Service Pack as the equivalent of a full release, than prior to “Windows as a service” there was the potential of 3 upgrades over a 5 year period. With “Windows as a service”, there is now the potential of 10 upgrades in the same time period. The pace becomes even faster if you consider the potential impact of updates, which are cumulative and incorporate the full operating system.
For enterprise level products, service and product upgrades are large, costly and potentially impact companies by both their breadth and depth of usage. According to a 2002 CIO.com article, “Enterprise software upgrades can cost up to 30 percent of the original software installation price, according to Gartner, take more than a year to complete and require companies to revamp their technology infrastructures and business practices.”
A common practice has been to defer or delay upgrades. But that decision does not decrease the cost of the upgrade and, like not paying off your credit card bill, over time that decision increases your debt. At the end of the day, to maintain compliance to support agreements or ensure a stable and secure product, you have to upgrade or replace the product.
When upgrading, you plan for:
- impacts on or from customizations,
- compatibility issues,
- exploiting new features,
- and the desire to overhaul or improve business operations.
All of these add complexity to an already complex task. One means of reducing this complexity is to perform a “Like for like” or technical upgrades. I have had considerable success with this technique and provide further details at http://likeforlike.therf.ca/ .