Elif Levin


Will the software company still exist in 10, 20 years and will the customer still be able to work with the software then?

One question that is often on the minds of buyers: How long-term is the purchase I am about to make?

When purchasing new software, in addition to sensible assistance, cost-benefit ratio and service options, questions are always considered to which there is not always an answer. One of these is the very often asked question "Will the company or the software still exist in ten years?" or "Will a long-term business relationship be ensured here?". These customers have mostly never heard of the so-called "software aging".

We long for continuity even in the workplace and in our choice of software manufacturer. But there is no such thing as a lifetime guarantee.
The sales department usually has "nice sounding answers" to such questions

Especially in sales, these questions are often refuted with many good-sounding answers and explanations.

Large companies like to use the number of their employees or the distribution of their software as an argument for long-term cooperation.

Large companies that operate worldwide like to promote their software and services by emphasizing the number of employees behind the product, the sales figures of the company that manufactures and/or distributes the product, or even the number of years the manufacturer has been on the market, as if all or one of these were a valid argument for guaranteeing decades of loyalty.

However: business management doctrines speak of software deployment durations of approximately five to ten years

The average software deployment period is five to ten years (for example, according to Hargraves from "Strategieplanung für die Technische EDV" by author Wolfgang Lindheim).

Science has been dealing with the phenomenon of so-called soft aging since at least the 1990s.

Even if all the promises made by the sales department were kept, the phenomenon of so-called software obsolescence would strike over the years, despite the promised economic components aimed at the long term (many customers, large company worldwide, economically stable situation of the company, no sale of the software company, etc.).

Software aging can be recognized by the following characteristics (see also the following article with references from science by Wiebke Kappenberg, Paul Drews)
  • Resource consumption - With old software, resource consumption (especially memory consumption) increases.
  • Availability - The probability of failure increases due to errors and the availability of the software decreases.
  • Errors - Over time, frequent changes cause more errors to occur, such as. For example, arithmetic rounding errors or system errors.
  • Performance - Performance decreases over time because, for example, memory is not released correctly.
  • Response time - Due to increasing program complexity, responses can take longer and be incorrect.
  • Software quality - Software quality (functionality, reliability, efficiency, maintainability, portability) decreases over time due to frequent and inconsistent changes.
In short: Even if the basic prerequisite for a "suspicion" of a long-term deployment possibility is given...

...this is nevertheless a question that cannot be answered reliably and seriously. If a software supplier has been active on the market for several years and has a certain amount of validated, renowned references, it is still a challenge to reliably answer such a question.

No matter what arguments you hear from various software vendors, every argument can be debunked. There is a lot happening in the market that is not mentioned in the software aging arguments:

Large manufacturers buy small manufacturers. If small manufacturers are bought, it is not guaranteed how their previous developments will continue.

Small manufacturers are going out of business and not finding interested companies to continue.

Companies change their previously followed paths and develop their products in directions that customers do not necessarily want to follow.

Software that was once excellent and precisely suitable is simply getting on in years and can no longer recognize or implement modern requirements - be it technical or also in terms of content. Sometimes manufacturers also miss the boat on developments in the market.

Old and new are often very close to each other. Nevertheless, some software manufacturers cannot be made to recognize what measures they would have to take to keep up with the new. Often, there is also a lack of the corresponding problem awareness and (new) know-how.
As a conclusion, it can be stated that the question of long-term cooperation will never be answered correctly.

But what can be done if the long-term use of a software is to be ensured as far as possible?

Request the source code and deposit it with a notary for your own use in the event a software vendor is unable to continue development.
Document your software processes and procedures so that they can be more easily transferred to new software if necessary.
Ask how many customers the manufacturer has and make the effort to call through references from the manufacturer.
Check how long the manufacturer has been on the market. This does not show what tomorrow will be, but it gives an indication of the long term so far.
Periodically back up your data in a format that would be easily processed by other third parties.
With a conscious look into the future, companies can nevertheless take precautions, but should always remain open to new ideas.
No one can see into the future, but you can take all possible measures to be well prepared

If you have taken all the measures that will best prepare you for the future, be prepared for the fact that you may not use the same software for decades. And stop wondering if a software vendor will still be your software vendor 10 or 20 years from now. Only time will be able to answer that question for you. Nor is it always desirable to stay with the same software vendor at all costs.

Since you have read this article, you may also be interested in these:

New introduction of software under replacement of existing systems

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