How To Find the Right Time to Upgrade

BY Kerrie Spencer

Concept of a businessman that work on new ideas
Concept of a businessman that work on new ideas


It can seem like every time you turn around, there is yet another Microsoft upgrade that you just cannot live without. Or, can you? In its most recent offering, Microsoft is rolling out Windows 8 and Office 2013. Is your firm ready to embrace another change? Or does your staff want to cry, “Just let us work!”?

It was not that long ago that the working world was regaled with Windows 7 and Windows XP, Office 2003 and all the other bells and whistles that went with it. For firms upgrading, this meant training all staff on a new system. And now, it works like a charm. “But, wait!” they say. “There is a newer, better software release you will love.”

If you are on the same page as many other law firms, there is a collective eye roll of frustration when a new release is touted. Time for a change, or not, as the case may be. Just the thought of having to install and retrain all the staff is daunting - the downtime, the expense, the frustration. It is time to take a hard look at some of these newer releases and features and figure out if you really do need them. Maybe you do not.

One reason for not immediately rushing into an upgrade is that most major upgrades are rarely, if ever, perfect on first release. Often a service pack is floated out to fix something that does not work properly, followed by another pack later, and another one... You get the point. Each fix disturbs office workflow, and a law office is one of the worst places to have programs that do not work. Down time means lost revenue.

Windows 7 works well and is stable. It will likely be a year or longer before Windows 8 gets to that point. Office 2003 works well and is stable. Office 2013? Not yet. Why do we want to rush to upgrade? It does not sound like such a great idea so far.

While there are techogeeks out there that love each new upgrade, those who have to work with it on a daily basis just want it to work – period. Many new software releases are regarded suspiciously, and with good reason. There is work being done in a law office -- important work. Down time to fiddle with glitches is not amusing, appreciated, nor does it result in billable hours.

Then there is the matter of costs. Microsoft wants customers to start moving on to subscription plans instead of a traditional software purchase. For larger firms, what was once a relatively easy cost outlay per machine, per software release, can turn into an unwanted ongoing subscription expense.

Do you already work in the cloud? If not, Office 2013 will try to get you to use Microsoft’s cloud storage service, which can raise data protection and ethics concerns. And, there is the question of whether or not you like to be forced into adopting a technology you are not comfortable using. The ultimate choice of whether to move to the cloud is up to individual firms, but there are real security issues that need to be addressed before jumping in.

If you like creating documents using a touch display, you might like Windows 8. However, most law offices are not likely to create documents that way. A large majority of the computing public today still prefers a keyboard. However, in Windows 8, the Start menus is gone, and you cannot boot to the desktop. You need a touch mouse, touchscreen and trackpad gestures, meaning older computers will not run it.

You may be tired of helping the industry make money release after new release. Enough. There is always a time and a place for upgrades in any law firm. It’s just that perhaps now is not the time for Windows 8 and Office 2013. For now, upgrading seems to have more cons than pros.

Kerrie Spencer

Kerrie Spencer is a staff contributor to Bigger Law Firm Magazine.


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