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As those of you who work in IT will surely recognize, the mere fact that you “work with computers” means that you instantly become the whole family’s go-to person for any type of tech support.

I am no exception. I am assumed to know exactly why mother’s printer is flashing a red light, why my wife’s favorite web page is slow, or why my mother-in-law can’t hear anything on Skype. At least I now get some help from my six year old son instructing his younger sister with the games on her iPad.

As part of my duty as family IT wizard I have upgraded our home PC, my father’s, my mother’s, and some of their friends’ PCs to Windows 10. They had all seen the offer of a free upgrade and asked “is this something I should do?”, which is code for “can you do it for me, please?” Said and done – it actually turned out to be a pretty smooth, albeit a time-consuming, process.

Interestingly, this is the first time since Windows 95 that I have seen a “Windows upgrade wave” amongst consumers.

Reflecting on all the other “support calls” over the years I think the single most common call is the one that goes, “There is a message saying that an update for Windows/Java/Acrobat/Flash/Intel/ Dell/HP is available and asking me to install it. Should I?”

Putting myself in their shoes, it’s actually not an easy question to answer, not knowing what will happen if I proceed, not understanding the risks, and the message coming from someone they don’t know nor trust. Worth thinking about for anyone intending to roll out software updates to the masses. More on that later (read on…).

Java update available

What is my mother of 70 supposed to do with messages like these?

IFS Applications 9 Update 1 certified for Windows 10

Talking about Windows 10, though, Microsoft has been taking a lot of heat over Windows 8 for the last couple of years, and it has been said over and over again how much now hinges on Windows 10.

So will they get it right this time? Although the jury might be out for just a little bit longer, I actually think so, for three reasons:

  1. Windows 10 feels like an improvement to all of us laptop/desktop users (and let’s face it there are a lot of us, especially in business), whilst still being able to act as a passable tablet OS. This removes the #1 reason why companies were holding back on rolling out Windows 8 / 8.1. Consequently I think we will see the effects of a bit of pent up upgrade need during 2016.
  2. Giving it away for free to consumers works, not just in my family. For example netmarketshare.com reports a market share of 9% for Windows 10 in November—a high number just four months after release. Although upgrade interest in companies is high, few have rolled out their Windows 10 upgrades yet, so this is coming mainly from consumers.
  3. For IFS and others who develop software, Windows 10 makes things a bit easier as well. The confusion over Windows RT is gone. Our “desktop mode” applications are no longer treated as second rate citizens, and the Edge browser performs well for responsive web applications—something we can see in our existing products as well as ongoing developments here at IFS.

For all of you out there using IFS Applications, you can roll out Windows 10 knowing that IFS products will work. IFS Applications 9 Update 1 as well as IFS Field Service Management 5.6.2 are fully-certified on Windows 10, including the use of Internet Explorer 11 and Edge browsers. Our mobile solutions IFS Touch Apps and IFS Mobile Work Order are already on Windows 10 as well.

Evergreen ERP

Let’s go back to that question of “Should I install this update?” This is in fact a growing issue as the whole IT industry is pushing towards evergreen software, ie, software that is always up-to-date.

Your phone and tablet regularly ping you to update the iOS or Android version (they don’t even ask you any more before updating apps), SaaS software is often updated without any prior warning, and now Microsoft has put both Office365 and Windows 10 on a continuous update model.

There are good reasons for doing this. From the customer or user’s point of view it means having the latest or newest software at low effort and cost. If well managed it also means higher quality as these updates roll out security patches and other bug fixes.

From the software vendor’s point of view it simplifies the support landscape, increases opportunity to up-sell, and staves off competitors as your users will always have the best you can offer (rather than comparing competitors’ new offering to what you sold them years ago).

But all is not roses. There are challenges in this, too.

The reason my father calls me about every possible update is that he needs help to understand the impact of the update. For example if it would change anything (like the UI of the web browser) he doesn’t want to do it until he can get some training (by me) on how to use the new thing. He wants reassurance that it is not spyware he is installing. And he needs to hear from someone he trusts that it’s recommended to proceed.

These are the sorts of questions any business will ask themselves as well when faced with an update to business-critical applications.

Asking ourselves these types of questions has formed how we here at IFS approach our vision for evergreen enterprise software—a process we started with IFS Applications 9 and the layered application architecture we introduced there.

For 2016 we are changing our support model from a traditional one of infrequent service packs with hot fixes in between, to one of regular cumulative updates. The first update was released on October 23 and, in 2016, we plan to release quarterly updates to IFS Applications 9.

However, we know that enterprise software is a lot more complex thing than an app on your phone, and with potentially huge impact on your business. Therefore we promise that we will do our best to help you. Specifically, we will:

  • Document the content of updates thoroughly, so you know what to expect.
  • Make sure updates are cumulative so that even if you missed one (or two), just take the latest one and you are back on track.
  • Test our updates thoroughly so that you don’t have to.
  • Design our updates to minimize impact on customizations you may have, and provide tools so that you can analyze in detail the impact on your particular IFS Applications installation.
  • Not force you to take all updates. In the end, it is your business so it has to be your call.

By doing all of this we hope to also earn your trust, which in the end is what matters most for both of us to succeed.

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