Geo Week News

October 10, 2014

When Do Your Tools of the Trade Actually Become Obsolete?

Logan's Run Screenshot

Recently I turned the big “5-Oh.” This got me thinking more about aging. After all, everyone and everything gets older with each passing day. One might start to wonder—as things get older, do they eventually become obsolete? 

Since I’ve already revealed my age, it’s now safe to talk about a very obscure TV series from the 70’s called Logan’s Run (based on the movie of the same name). Those of you who are old enough to remember this show may recall that the story is about a future society in which both population and the consumption of resources are maintained in equilibrium by requiring the death of every person at the age of 21. The story follows the actions of Logan, a Sandman charged with enforcing the rule, as he tracks down and kills citizens who “run” from society’s lethal demand—only to end up “running” himself as he reaches his 21st birthday. 

If you’re a service provider like me, you probably have tools of the trade – hardware and software – that need to be maintained and upgraded. At what point do they truly become useless and need to be eliminated? And, is this decision being made by you or someone else?

Take software, for instance. I remember back to the early days of the software industry when, for example, you could pick up a license of Autodesk’s AutoCAD for a couple thousand dollars. Back then it came with a manual, installation disks and a license key based somewhat on the honor system. Now you are persuaded to purchase not just the single license of what you need, but an entire suite of other programs, plus sign up for an annual subscription.

Back in the day, I was satisfied with upgrading my software every three years or so. This amount of time in between versions seemed appropriate to maintain an adequate Return on Investment (ROI). After all, there are significant costs to upgrading, such as training, installation, and configuration. These costs can be significant, as can the disruption caused by the upgrade. 

Each time I upgrade I find myself wondering things like “Why did they change the menu structure? Now I can’t find anything!” Or, I run into trouble again, caused by different versions not being compatible with one another. There’s also the resulting chaos when working with consultants using a different version than me. I ask myself, “Why am I paying money for this?” and, “do I really need the 2015 version of this when it is only April of 2014?”

To avoid costs and trouble, I often choose not to implement the new version I just purchased. Instead of downloading gigabytes of program files from the website, I simply choose to not to upgrade to these extra programs that I don’t really need anyway. Because of the software industry’s plan to bring in more revenue, I often do not fully realize my ROI for one software release before being persuaded to purchase the next upgrade.  

The bottom line is often we can get by with a lot more than we think without having to have the latest and greatest. After all, good enough is often, well… good enough.  Maybe we can learn something from Logan and not succumb to the pressure to eliminate things that someone else tells us are obsolete just because they are getting older. 

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