Is that New Product Update Right for You?


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Most people say that two things in life are certain: death and taxes. But, in our growing technology age, you may want to add a third: software updates.

“Bugs are an inevitable byproduct of writing software.”

Unless it is a completely unused and useless program, there are going to be bugs in the code that require remediation and resolution. It’s simple, technology and software are constantly being updated. But, in addition to security alerts, patches, and hotfixes, healthy companies will frequently create a roadmap of new features and new product updates.

New features are an essential part of company strategy to capture more of a market, defend market share, retain key accounts, and add significant functionality or introduce a major enhancement. While it is true that most companies are developing updates and new features to benefit the customer, this doesn’t mean that you should take every product update. New updates can solve problems, but also introduce complexity, the risk of new defects, require staff training, change known behaviors, and/or require the adapting and modification of processes and associated documents. A large part of the job of evaluating the veracity and relevance of a new product update actually falls squarely on the customer.

Five tips for determining if that new product update is right for you?

1. Research the feature

Research the company materials regarding the new feature. This includes looking at multiple sets of information. Including the following:

• Press releases.
Look up what has been said in their press releases. What does the feature promise or not promise? How is it being positioned?

• Whitepapers.
Look for succinct statements about the intended audience, value proposition, and audience. Do these match the press release? Are you in the intended audience or merely adjacent?

• Blog articles and how-to guides.
Look for information that supports the features claimed by the marketing materials. For example, if the feature promotes ease of use, how complicated are the how-to guides and blogs. Is there any indication that the feature adds more complexity than value?

• Support articles.
Depending on the age of the product and release date of the feature, support articles can be a good source of information. A support community can give you insight into adoption challenges or triumphs. In addition, support knowledge base articles can identify if there are areas of concern that the company has found reasonable to post, patch or provide other guidance on.

• Technical Documentation and Reference Manuals.
Technical documentation and/or feature reference manuals should be where you spend the bulk of your research efforts. While how-to guides give you a general overview of a specific sample of uses, the more detailed manuals will help you discern just how much of the feature will support your team, company, or personal use. The technical manual may also explain (or expose) how a particular feature or new version adds significant value in areas that were not necessarily marketable. For example, several years ago a project management tool announced the addition of export/import functionality or integration with an expanded set of third-party tools. Google Drive integration was the feature highlighted in the press release and whitepaper, and was the primary example in the how-to guide. However, the reference manual for this project management tool listed that it had also added the ability to export and import from Box, Dropbox and Evernote – which, in my case, were much more important.

2. Analyze the findings

After completing the research, compile and analyze the findings. In this phase your goal is to look at the pros and cons of the new product feature or product release. What are the positive tangible benefits of the new release? For example, does it provide better performance, new major capabilities, better integrations, or more flexibility? As you consider the tangible benefits, look for implied benefits including improved supportability by being on the latest release, security fixes, or other related bug fixes?

While finding lots of positive benefits for a release is a good thing, don’t overlook the other side of the coin. In addition to the positive benefits, look for any negative side effects or problems with taking the next release. What changes are required to upgrade to the new release or enable new features? Will this new feature bundle in additional tools, or require more resources such as increased storage capacity, CPU or memory? Also watch out for the addition of multi-level requirements. That new logging feature with all of the correlation, timeline wizardry, and user friendly dashboard may also bring with it a hoard of new libraries and commercial products and licenses.

3. Costs

Another component for determining whether that new product update is right for you is the cost. Does the new product update include an additional purchase or support cost? For many solutions and subscriptions, new features and new product updates are included. However, if the license model or particular feature is not included in a free update, there may be additional costs associated with the release that are outside the scope of the current budget. In addition, consider whether the product update will also include other costs such as new equipment or installation fees and charges. Another cost to consider is in the area of training needs. Will this new update require additional team training or assistance to learn how to use, apply, or optimize the new product update. If the new product update requires a learning curve, this should be factored into the cost of using the product or included when making the final decision.

4. Meet with your sales rep

Be sure to schedule a meeting with the sales representative for your software. Ask your sales representative about how the product and new features will complement your specific requirements. Gauge whether there are any gaps between the external product announcement and the sales representative’s confidence and knowledge of the features capabilities. Probe for insights on the health and success of the new release. In addition, ask the sales representative about any other possible information that can help you understand the feature and benefits.

5. Look at the competition

Lastly, analyze whether the new product or new product feature is on par with or exceeds the capabilities of the competitive solutions in the market. If the new product update does not meet or exceed the value of the competition’s product, it may be better to wait for the next update that will level the playing field or close the gap in features. This is a critical step in evaluation even if your company cannot invest in changing products, or has no interest or ability to do so. Understanding the competition can help you paint a picture of the future and perhaps, lining up your product’s progression for the future.

Understanding if a new release or new product feature is right for your environment is an essential part of IT Administration. As VP of Customer Experience at SIOS Technology Corp. I have worked with Customers to determine if they are able to upgrade to a later release, and helped those who could not, due to discontinuation of a feature or due to changes in a workflow, understand their options and chart a path forward. Assessing and analyzing new releases and new features before a massive project rollout will help avoid unnecessary frustration and lost time.

Bonus Tip: Be sure to consider your company’s schedule and maintenance windows in your analysis of the new release as well. If the timing of the new release does not align with existing maintenance or update windows, and a future release will, it may be a good idea to wait on that new product update.

Cassius Rhue
Cassius Rhue leads the Customer Experience team at SIOS Technology responsible for customer success spanning pre-sales, post-sales and professional services engagements. With over 19 years of experience at SIOS and a focus on the customer, his significant skills and deep knowledge in software engineering, development, design and deployment specifically in HA/DR are instrumental in addressing customer issues and driving success.


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