When contracts run out on cell phones, doesn’t everyone opt for a newer one?

Jim Bourke, a partner and director of firm technology at Red Bank, N.J.-based WithumSmith+Brown, posed that question at the Accounting Technology Show and Conference in NYC last week (See related story, “Picking the Best Mobile Devices for Accounting.”)

One attendee admitted he wanted to stick with the old one because he “just got used to it.”

Bourke poked fun at the man for sticking to his old ways, but also made a backhanded argument for not upgrading: it requires training and the time that goes with that—unbillable time, of course.

For people with contracts expiring every two years, that means that just as they’re starting to get comfortable with their current device, they have to learn something new again.

New isn’t always better, either.

I selected an “upgraded” phone from the list of free options my carrier supplied me after researching some user reviews. In general, the phone is OK. It holds a charge for a long time, which was my biggest concern, but the text messaging system is awkward and frustrating. That’s a problem that can’t be fixed simply by plugging it in, and now I’m stuck with it for two years.

Take that to a much larger level when firms are considering either investing in some new-fangled technology or upgrading from an older system.

Investing in something the firm has never used isn’t as cumbersome as upgrading, but many vendors now offer free trial periods during which firms can experiment with the tools using their own data to get a feel for how it might actually work.

A word of advice for firms that are going this route: Let the staffers who will actually need to use those tools experiment with them themselves. Regardless of whether it’s a partner or an admin, if the technology guru in the office uses it, he’s going to have a much different experience than someone who avoids the Internet.

“Easy” is in the eye of the user.

Switching software can be even scarier. Not only is there a learning curve, but there is time and costs associated with moving the information from one system to another and ensuring that information is accurate.

Firms contemplating this decision should seriously consider contacting a consultant to determine truly how compatible their current and perspective future systems are. Many products out there tout “seamless integration,” but that term also can be subject to scrutiny.

On the other end of the spectrum are those people who refuse to upgrade for whatever reason.

At Sage’s Insights 2009 reseller conference in Nashville this month, Laurie Schulz, the general manager for Sage’s Accpac and MAS lines, revealed that 65 percent of customers (roughly 24,000 of them) are currently on old versions yet paying maintenance, anyway.

Schulz called this number “horrifying” and said that many of those customers claim their reasons for not upgrading have to do with the cost or complexities associated with those upgrades. And that’s in the same product, let alone a system created by another vendor.

When it comes to major technology purchasing decisions, many accountants are of the mindset that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Now may not be time for a new model, but even the classics need a decent tune-up once in a while.

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