The Kindest Cut of All: Surgery and Software Upgrades

Apologies for the 2 weeks “silence” in blogs from your Tech Comm Suite product evangelist. I had throat surgery (thyroid removal) that had a hefty recovery time. Although I returned to work days before this blog was written, there was a little catching up to do. My experience with delayed surgery has a parallel to software upgrades, so hang in there.

Older version of thyroid

Older version of Software

Sometimes our pain points “grow on us” slowly over time

My thyroid problems started several years ago and the gland enlarged over time. I was told to have it removed 3 years ago, but lack of affordable healthcare delayed the process. I convinced myself that “it wasn’t that bad” and just let the condition go.

When you look at yourself in the mirror every morning, you don’t notice incremental changes that take place gradually over time. Weight gain. Aging. A slowly growing lump on the side of your throat. But people who haven’t seen you for a while do notice physical changes. “Max, are you alright?” “Are you feeling OK?” Nobody wanted to blurt out “what is that lemon sized growth on the side of your neck?”

When I recently obtained more affordable insurance and revisted my doctor after a 3 years absence we discovered that my thyroid had grown to over 2.5x normal size. Fortunately, most of it had grown inward and down into my chest, with no complicated “wrap around” other organs or nerves. The surgery was major, but relatively uncomplicated. I could hardly call the recovery period painless, but believe me it was worth it. Even my voice improved for the better.

We get used to our pain points and “work around them”

Many of us who haven’t upgraded our software in 5, 7 or 10 years are experiencing pain points that we become used to, or find a way to justify. This is especially easy to do if we haven’t had hands on with the latest versions. The most common thing that a new software version provides is reduced steps to achieve a goal and quicker, more reliable results.

I did the same thing with my body and thyroid that many people do who are working with long out-dated software. I adapted my behavior and physical movements to “work around” my limitations. It was normal for me to: only sleep on my stomach because the weight of the thyroid nearly cut off my breathing; become used to avoiding certain foods that were difficult to swallow; put a headset on mute 7 or 8 times during an eSeminar to avoid a canon-like cough; by larger shirt sizes so I could button my collar. I had many reasons to justify this, the main one being an incredibly high deductible on my old insurance.

Where I saw similar delays in getting the problem fixed

When I was still in the translation industry, I was astonished at the number of customers who continued to cling to very out-dated versions of software, (Adobe and other brands too.) Many customers clung to FrameMaker 7.2, a terrific product in its day, which has no UNICODE support. (The product was released 7 years ago.) Besides many extra steps during post-translation format correction, FrameMaker 7.2 generates PDF files that show boxed question marks for all PDF bookmarks in unsupported languages, like Russian. Customers paid their translation agencies for extra billable time to fix all of these book marks via copy and paste each and every time a new PDF had to be generated for review. Although my team frequently documented the ROI and translation project savings the customer would gain from upgrading to a newer release of FrameMaker, many clients refused to budge.

Similar situations occurred with all other versions of software, especially Microsoft Word. The most dramatic example in recent memory was one potential customer who submitted documents late last year in QuarkXPress 4 (1997). Yes, they were still working with that product.

While working for translation agencies, some of the more common reasons customers gave to me for not upgrading were:

  • We’ve developed a series of workarounds and we can live with it
  • It’s just how we’re used to doing things
  • My management thinks that $___ is to much to pay for an upgrade
  • We’re all used to the old UI, know where to find everything, and we don’t have time to learn a new UI
  • etc. etc. etc.

Why didn’t I do this sooner?

With hindsight, I should have taken out a loan I could have paid off over a year or two and had this surgery at least 2 years ago. The post-surgical freedom of movement, speech, even sleep has been astonishing. Although I thought I had become used to those pain points (so similar to working with outdated software), now I look back and wonder how on earth I put up with it. By letting go of the old, I’ve become far more productive.

Time is running out; do it now

If you are using software that is older than 4 years, you should seriously consider an upgrade. You will find that Return on Investment (ROI) will not be difficult to document. All you have to do is work with your account representative to determine how many minutes are saved with certain actions. Multiply those minutes by the time you do that action throughout the year; multiply that by all fellow users of  the software; multiply the total hours by the average salary or internal human resources costs. You may find that you can afford a dozen more licenses in addition to some software upgrades.

And when you do upgrade, although there may be a brief “healing” period adjusting to a new UI and new features,  you will feel oh so much better!