What makes software obsolete? I don’t really think about it until—suddenly—I can no longer use something. But, there are many reasons why software stops working for us:
- Upgrading the computer’s operating system, or some part of it
- Upgrading software that depends on the now broken tool
- Limits exceeded, e.g., number of records the tool can save
- Our workflow changes
- We outgrow the tool
- We simply don’t need the tool anymore
In all but the last case, we have to deal with getting that software’s functionality back into our lives. Whether the tool is as mundane as a text editor or as sophisticated as an image processor, our productivity is tied to our familiarity with that program. The prospect of replacing it can be daunting, as there are several factors to consider:
- Replacement cost
- Backward compatibility
- Productivity drop
Perhaps we should take a careful look at causes and possible solutions:
Obviously, we can’t place much weight on a grid that accounts for so few factors. It merely helps us to focus on the problem in a piecemeal fashion, hopefully making the task more digestible.
One thing we should always be doing is making sure we don’t force the issue with a hasty upgrade of either the operating system or key software that depends on our tools. It’s easy to say, “Rollback that upgrade!” However, in practice, it may be next to impossible.
Finally, if our decisions are all constrained to the red zones, maybe we have bigger issues to resolve than just obsolete software.