Why Future Proofing Failed in the Past and What You Can Do About It

Oct 10, 2022 11:28:42 AM

The term “future-proof” gets thrown around a lot by organizations promoting new software. The idea is that if you buy what they’re selling, you won’t have to make another large investment in that type of software ever again.

The problem is that future-proofing of that type never quite holds up. New technologies invariably arise that outstrip past software and put the lie to the future-proof guarantee.

The idea of “future proof software” is, more often than not, a sales tactic. If you believe you won’t need to upgrade your software ever again, you are more likely to invest in the new piece of software— even if it is replacing something that was supposed to be future-proof in the first place.

But that is not to say that software cannot evolve and give you an excellent ROI, even if it isn’t “future-proof.” There are many ways modern tech can justify your investment, even as you understand that you will eventually need to replace that software.

Transformational Technology

When done right, major technology transitions are transformational. The new tech and new capabilities it brings take what you had been doing to the next level. That can be disruptive at first as your team learns the new system, but it pays off in the end.

It also allows you to take a step back and look at your processes and workflows from a big-picture standpoint. As part of your transformation business process, you can eliminate little bottlenecks and problems that your old system facilitated as part of your transformation.

That big-picture view also lets you take stock of where you are in the market and where you want this new tech to help you go. Transformational technology that, for example, automates business processes can go a long way in helping you to stake your claim to your place in the market.

Overall, the reason to upgrade is to make your organization run more smoothly. Today that means accomplishing goals better, faster, and more efficiently while minimizing social and environmental harm. 

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Partial Future-Proofing Software

Even with transformational technologies, it is possible to invest in software that is partially future proof. This is a business model that takes traditional on-premises software updates and throws them out in favor of subscription models.

Subscription based software allows updates to be made automatically online or via cloud-based functionality. This means that small, regular updates roll out regularly instead of once or twice a year. 

This mostly makes software updates simple to manage and the updated functions easy to incorporate into workflows— ensuring a much more scalable model than before. You used to have to wait for updates to be made in person, and you could wind up paying a great deal for the labor to install a “free” update.

But even with a subscription model that updates regularly, you aren’t entirely future-proof. Big shifts in technology and new ways of working can require totally new approaches and totally new software solutions. That’s the nature of tech.

Future-Proof Your Mindset

While you can never truly future-proof software, you can create a future-proof mindset toward technology. You have to recognize that every ten years brings faster innovations than the ten years that came before and learn to recognize when the time is right to make a change in your systems.

Right now, there are several technologies in various stages of development that could prove transformative to your organization. Some of them are already seeing real-world applications. Some are still experiencing growing pains. Here are some examples:

Blockchain based applications

Though most headlines about blockchain focus on NFTs (non-fungible tokens) and crypto-currency, there is a great deal more to it. At its heart, the blockchain is about data transparency and creating trustworthy business transactions. How that will apply to your organization in the future may surprise you.

Decentralized vs Centralized Finance

Decentralized Finance or DeFi is an umbrella term for financial services on public blockchains. DeFi uses the same kinds of blockchains that crypto currencies use.

DeFi doesn't require using regular banks to mediate the transaction, so can be seen as either an alternative, or a threat, to centralized banking systems. It can also enable instant transfers between countries, and without the bank fees involved in that process. 

We have yet to see what will emerge as the stronger force, but there is a chance that major changes to our economic system could be coming. At the least, countries are looking at implementing their own form of digital currencies, referred to as CBDC or Central Bank Digital Currency. Unlike crypto though, this will be centrally controlled by the issuing country, giving government the ability to track every dollar spent, unlike cash.

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

These are much farther along the development ladder than the other technologies on this list. We already see things like robot process automation and the Internet of Things affecting organizations ranging from logistics to health and medicine to finance and beyond. But these technologies are still developing and improving, so keep your eye on them.

Flexibility in All Things

The main thing to take away from all this is that flexibility is key. Keep your eyes open for the next transformative technology while getting the most out of the software you have. And keep that in mind in other areas of your organization.

Flexible work spaces are becoming more and more common due to the pivot to remote working that the global pandemic necessitated. Now, many workers would rather split time between working from home and working in the office, if they come to the office at all.

Supply chain issues have also driven many people toward a desire for regional self-sufficiency, which changes many production models. But it helps those organizations stay flexible.

Predicting the future is difficult. Just as you can never truly future-proof software, you can’t see what’s coming in ten years' time. But by making evolution and revolution part of your business strategy, you can stay flexible and come out on top.

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