Geo Week News

November 24, 2014

Going Broke on Upgrades

man pulling out empty pockets

My firm Architectural Resource Consultants (ARC) is probably a lot like many other service providers offering 2D and 3D building documentation services. We all face the challenge of managing technologies and processes that are constantly changing. This can be difficult when budgets are tight. The consequences of making a wrong decision about implementing a new technology can be costly.

Let’s take, for example, something as simple as software upgrades. Today it seems the software industry is constantly pushing out new versions. They all have their own name for it, whether they call it being on subscription, software maintenance, the customer care package, etc. One thing remains the same, though: The cost of implementing new software has consequences that aren’t always apparent up front.

Some software upgrades may trigger the need to upgrade hardware. I learned this when I purchased my first license of Autodesk’s Building Design, which is a suite of many programs. Little did I realize that simply loading the programs on my workstation would consume what space was remaining on my hard drive. I was now faced with a tough decision. 

The simplest solution was just not to load many of the programs in the suite that I just purchased. Of course then, it would be a waste of money to buy software and not use it. The next solution was to upgrade my C: drive (which would be a very time consuming proposition) or purchase a secondary drive to install the program files on (which is not ideal either). 

The last option was to spend yet more money and upgrade my entire workstation. After all, I don’t want to have wasted a bunch of money on my software purchase. And having faster hardware will make my software perform better, right? 

Well, after upgrading my hardware, I learned that the older version of another software package I use might not be compatible with my new workstation. Now I’m faced with the decision of upgrading yet another software package. The problem gets bigger as you multiply it across the number of workstations where you face this situation. Cash can quickly disappear, only to be replaced with liabilities on the balance sheet.

I often wonder whether I’m the only one who struggles with keeping up to date with the latest technologies. 

While ARC prides itself on being on the leading edge and adopting new technologies, we are certainly far from being able to adopt every new technology that comes around. To stay competitive, we have decided to limit the total number of software packages we implement, not increase it. This allows us to focus on building optimal hardware and software configurations that are easier to support. It also greatly simplifies the administrative and training side of the equation. Implementation of a new technology must have a measureable positive effect on our bottom line; otherwise it becomes a “no-go.” 

With the rate of technological change in the industry, it is just not feasible for us to acquire and test out every new technology. The costs to do so are typically much larger that the initial purchase price. The costs of implementation, and support, as well as the hidden costs that are seldom fully accounted for, are real. 

It’s important to remember that the point of adopting new technology is to become more productive, to become more profitable, and to gain a competitive advantage. Going broke in the process doesn’t help achieve this objective. 

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