For computer users, the development cycle of computer software can be frustrating. You get comfortable with an application like Excel 2003. You have all of your spreadsheets optimized for the software and employees have received comprehensive Excel 2003 training. Then a new version of the software appears and you have to spend the money to upgrade and retrain your staff, not to mention the time to ensure your spreadsheets work properly on the new system. Is it all worth it?

Why Do Companies Release New Versions?

If you ask a software company why they just released a new version of an application they will release a barrage of marketing speak, touting all the new gee-whiz features. "The new Wombat 4.0 Operating System will butter your toast for you, a critical feature that our competitors don't offer."

In reality software companies keep releasing new versions to keep their cash flow steady. Otherwise people will buy one copy of the application and once everyone owns one, the company doesn't have any income. Software doesn't wear out or go out of style like traditional manufactured goods do so they have to create a demand.

To be fair, Office 2007 does add significant functionality and is a more revolutionary release than any past version of Office was. However more features don't necessarily warrant abandoning your Excel 2003 training for an upgrade.

What Does The New Version Offer You?

Before upgrading, evaluate the new version and ask yourself how much the new capabilities are worth to you. It doesn't matter if the reviewers are raving about a feature if it's something your organization won't use.

Excel 2007 offers full support for Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Analysis Services. If that statement makes you go, "Huh?" then it's probably a feature you don't need. Microsoft also touts the wider accessibility of the new XML-based Excel file formats but if you aren't sharing Excel data with other applications, that's not much of a benefit.

The better you know Excel, the better you can evaluate how useful the new features will be. If you haven't taken Excel 2003 training, that would be a good start to appreciate the features and limitations of the software to better decide whether to upgrade.

Don't Upgrade Just To Upgrade

Often managers will assume that because a product is newer it must be better. This quickly leads to wasted money as unnecessary software is purchased, time wasted as employees with Excel 2003 training have to take Excel 2007 courses, and frustration as workers get used to a new system only to have it change again in a few years.

There are many good reasons to upgrade to Excel 2007, but "because it's new" is not one of them. The fact is that even Excel 97 is still widely used in business. Excel 2003 is not going to become obsolete and Excel 2003 training will be available for many years to come.