Obsolescence Creep

It might run in Compatibility Mode, but should we?


Having been in an AEC environment for many years, I know how fervently some Engineering types can cling to their favorite tools. Human nature, I guess. Stick with the known versus the potentially frightening unknown (or something that causes us to reevaluate our Processes).

What this means, in my experience, is undue pressure upon the Technology folks in a Firm to maintain obsolete versions of applications long after their expiration date.

In the past, I may have been guilty of enabling this behavior. Now, I understand the importance of a certain level of “tough love” when it comes to embracing Change.

I’m the last guy to jump on Technology for Technology’s sake and am a firm believer in the “if it ain’t broke…” philosophy but, there comes a time – and, often it creeps for ages until a tipping point is suddenly reached – when work formerly accomplished using obsolete programs must be brought into the Present.

The longer the creep continues, the more painful this transition can be.

I get it – “newer” doesn’t automatically mean “better” and almost inevitably, new versions of programs seem to require one or more extra clicks to perform the same task as the previous one. Still, each version we fall behind makes the ice beneath our feet thinner.

AEC firms are, by no means, the only perpetrators of this procrastination. At the time of this writing, it’s been 15 days since Microsoft’s support for the Windows XP operating system ended. Yet, 3 days ago, as I sat at an airport gate, I couldn’t help but notice that the Delta terminal was running XP. Granted, some large Enterprises have contracted continued XP support but, why do this rather than upgrade their applications to, presumably, make them more efficient and, more importantly, more secure?

And, again, this isn’t to single out Delta (‘cause I truly do appreciate those Medallion upgrades and hope they keep coming… 😉 ). One of our local TV stations, when in their “Storm Mode Control Center”, clearly displays the XP desktop on several computers. The list goes on.

So, what to do?

I propose that we treat Obsolescence Creep like a Police Officer pulling someone over for an inoperable tail light. Acknowledge that it’s an “unsafe” condition and should be remedied as soon as possible. Every time we drop back a version, we should issue a “Warning” and commit to a timeframe to resolve the issue. Keep in mind the timeframe will vary in each case.

Set up an internal Upgrade Committee, outsource to Consultants or ask your Resellers for assistance in modernizing your Firm’s collective toolbox. Realize that your Firm is not saving money by failing to upgrade Processes, it’s falling behind the competition.

Face it, even if there is a way to run Lotus 1-2-3 or WordPerfect for DOS on a Windows 8.1 machine, it’s just not a good idea.

Pong, anyone?

About Dave Pluke

Dave Pluke served as "the man behind the curtain" (Principal and VP of Technology) of a successful Structural Engineering firm for over 2 decades. Overseeing the transition from two, stand-alone 80286 Personal Computers, through Computer Aided Drafting (CAD) and Design to a fully networked, Building Information Modeling (BIM) integrated environment has provided plenty of "life lessons" (sounds better than "battle scars", doesn't it?). This blog's purpose is to share those experiences and apply lessons learned to better assist meeting the challenges of the future.
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