Software Updates: How Much Is Too Much?

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The other day, I was listening to a podcast discussing annual OS updates from companies like Google, Apple, and Microsoft. The conversation was centered around the idea that annual updates were too frequent, as one of the reporters reflected on the good ol’ days of Microsoft only updating Windows once every three years. Another told a short story about downloading apps to her BlackBerry at traffic lights because she couldn’t wait to get the latest and greatest.

It’s a bit of a stretch to correlate a major OS update to your iPhone to a 2-line update to credit union software deployed on a random Wednesday, but it did get me thinking about software deployment strategies. Since I moved into the role of deploying software updates for my CUSO, I’ve had the mentality that I shouldn’t be the hold up. Completed projects should not sit on my desk. The programmers and QC have done their work, why should a completed project be waiting on me? The update is done, so let’s send it out! I’m obviously with the reporter downloading apps at a traffic light: I want the latest and greatest and I want it now! But why should I assume that the employees at our credit unions have the same mentality?

If clients can’t keep up, it’s time to slow down

When my CUSO first started talking about slowing the pace of software updates, I scoffed. The work is done, so why wouldn’t we provide the update to our clients? What good would holding it back do? Clients are often truly grateful that we solved their issue in such a short period of time.

On the other hand, I do recognize that updates don’t always pan out as planned. Sometimes the updates make things worse instead of better. Sometimes they have unintended consequences. And sometimes we do more than the clients can keep up with. In the span of one year, we deployed updates to online clients on 163 out of 196 workdays. How can anyone be expected to keep up with such a rapid pace?

However, not all clients receive that many updates; self-processors only get updates three to four times a year. Why do we have two completely opposite mentalities when it comes to the different types of clients? Should it not be consistent?

While I don’t think that updating software for online credit unions only three or four times a year is reasonable, there is a happy medium to be found. While no formal changes have been agreed upon or implemented yet, we have been slowing down our updates. In the last five weeks, software updates have only been deployed on 10 out of 19 possible days. Some of that is due to the off issue that may arise, some of that is due to normal, end-of-calendar-year change freezes from vendors, and some of that is me fighting the urge to deploy updates the day I get them. I’m not sure where we will find that happy medium yet. It may take some time to judge what works best for clients and for the CUSO, but I’m sure the perfect balance is out there somewhere.

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