Career Opportunities
A weekly ComputorEdge Column by Douglas E. Welch

Moving Forward

May 21, 2004

Discuss High Tech Careers

Over the years, I have been content to let my clients use whatever technology made the most sense for their own personal needs. A majority of Windows 3.1 and Mac OS 7.5 users slowly evolved into Win95/98/XP and Mac OS X. Often, my clients were using hardware and software that was woefully out of date, but as long as it worked, I didn’t push them to make a change. That said, times change and people change with them. Now I find myself in a new role with my clients – pulling and pushing them into newer hardware and software so they do not get hopelessly left behind. This role is not an envious one for any high-tech careerist, but it is growing in importance every day.

For them, not for me

Some people might think that my newfound attitude might have something to do with selling new hardware or software to my clients. I can assure you, though, that I still don’t sell anything. I only recommend items that I think they could put to good use. Even more, I can support Windows 3.1 as well as Windows XP, so it isn’t a situation where I can’t keep older systems running. More and more, I am seeing clients in situations where their old computers can cause increasing trouble to both their peace of mind and the state of their high-tech lives.

One of the biggest issues in hanging onto old technology is the culture shock a user can experience when they are finally forced to make the move. If you were using Windows 3.1 and then upgraded to Win 95, then 98, then XP, you may have experienced minor issues learning the new systems, but each step was a small one and you quickly adapted to the new system.

Imagine now, though, a user moving from Win 3.1 to Win XP in one fell swoop. I have seen this in person and it is not a pretty sight. The user has to try and take in all the cumulative changes in the operating system. It can be quite daunting. It can take weeks before a user is back to a normal level of productivity again. The same thing can happen, although to a lesser degree, when users jump between major revisions of their software. Someone who was an expert in early versions of MS Word might feel like they are starting all over again.

For the money

Additionally, users who postpone upgrading their software can take an additional hit. Often, in upgrading from one version to the next, there are significant discounts on the new software. Sometimes these discounts can stretch from 1 to 3 versions, but, if the user does not upgrade soon enough, they will be forced to pay the full purchase price when they do. This can have a significant impact on the user’s finances, especially if they are using software, such as FileMaker Pro and others, which require all users to be using the same revision of the software.

Instead of paying out $50-$100 per upgrade as it moves from one version to the next, users will be forced to spend $500-$1000 (or more) to upgrade their entire organization. This is an especially tremendous burden for small companies,. It would be much better for them to amortize the costs of software over the years, rather than having to suffer the expense all at once.

This is not to say that people should indiscriminately upgrade every time software companies release a new version. You, as an advisor to your clients, need to be looking for the best time to upgrade and direct your clients accordingly.

Annual audit and review

Each year, you need to review the hardware and software being used by your clients and offer recommendations. Outline what software needs to be updated and which can be left alone. Detail computers, printers and other hardware that needs to be retired, or moved to a less critical role. Help your clients to keep new equipment coming into the office so that older equipment can be moved out.

One of the best arguments for moving forward is a worker whose productivity is being directly impacted by inferior hardware or software. Are they waiting 15 minutes for a printout? Is their computer taking hours to process monthly reports? Are people using 3 or 4 different pieces of software to do work that could be more easily accomplished with a new, updated solution?

Pushing and pulling your clients down the technology road can be difficult, but you can see the obvious disadvantages to ignoring the problem. There are clear reasons why individuals and companies need to keep their technology moving forward or risk suffering dramatic hits to productivity, self-esteem and their finances. Your high-tech career will rise and fall on your ability to keep your clients moving forward.

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