moving to the "new & improved" platform

I tend to install new versions of software as soon as they're available. Sometimes I regret being an early-adopter, like when Microsoft's IE7 or Media Player 10 took control of my system but I can usually back out if I need to. Thanks go out to Norton Ghost for restoring my system more than once.

I bought and installed Office 2007 and I'm pretty much digging it. The new interaction is generally much easier. Most of my annoyance with Windows comes from spending more time figuring out how to do what I want than I spend actually doing what I want. In Office 07, there's a consistent way of doing things in each program; each toolbar or ribbon works the same way everywhere. More important, chart objects in PowerPoint use Excel instead of the horrific MS Chart program in Office 2003. Because everything I used to know I have to learn anew, I'm revising presentation graphs from fresh data instead of trying to manipulate them from the old Office 2003 documents.

But here's the rub: my headquarters has decided to NOT upgrade. The new features don't warrant the additional cost of licenses, installation, and training, not to mention the hassles of incompatibilities between the 2003 data and the 2007 data. You can save in 2007 format but you lose compatibility with 2003 or you can save in 2003 format but lose the ability to modify most charts again.

It's really a common product management problem, isn't it? How do you get your customer base to move to the new platform?

What if the incremental value of improved user interaction (and accumulated bug fixes) doesn't offset the cost of conversion? How do you convince customers to move to the new & improved platform?

There are two aspects to consider: 1) make it easy to move, and 2) make it affordable to move. To make it easy, you have to convert their data, either programmatically or with services, and you'll need to offer training in some form. To make it cheap, you can offer upgrade pricing incentives or explain why using the new version saves money in other ways. One company couldn't convince its customers to upgrade so they decided to give the new version away; the reduction in technical support costs offset the incremental revenue so the company was ahead.

It's best to do both--make it easy and make it affordable--and be able to explain in user and buyer language how to make the change and why the change is valuable.

Steve Johnson

Steve Johnson

Steve Johnson was a founding instructor at Pragmatic Institute, a role he held for more than 15 years before he left to start Under10 Playbook. In his return to Pragmatic Institute, Steve supports the complete learning path for product teams, ensuring they are fully armed for success. 

Over the course of his career, Steve has helped thousands of companies and tens of thousands of product professionals implement product management processes. He has worked in the high-tech arena since 1981, rising through the ranks from product manager to chief marketing officer. Steve has experience in technical, sales and marketing management positions at companies that specialize in both hardware and software. In addition, he is an author, speaker and advisor on product strategy and product management.

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