“Do you have any quantitative information on the benefits of upgrading from Deltek Cobra 4.7 to Cobra 5.1?” I hear questions like this frequently, which always makes for good blog material as it’s clearly a common concern. My answer is usually a mixture of anecdotes and feature examples to try to give a balanced and useful response. This blog will likely seem no different, but hopefully will still be useful.
Let’s start with the most tangible benefits of upgrading to Deltek Cobra 5. I think the simplest thing to do here is list them as headed paragraphs with an explanation below. They’re kind of in order of magnitude here, but that’s just my opinion so take it for what it’s worth.
User Interface Improvements
Huge. My goodness, the two interfaces are worlds apart in ease of use. Not only do you gain a navigation pane that brings every major functional area into plain view, but you have a vastly improved integration wizard that pulls together that which was previously scattered across many menus. The biggest improvement that struck me when first I used Deltek Cobra 5.0 back in 2009 was the Integration Wizard’s ‘File Field Mapper’, a wonderful tool that saves you having to memorize or write down the order of your CSV file columns before building your integration configuration. Not to mention the fact that not only can CSV files now have headers, it’s a distinct advantage that they do. Catch me on a good day and I’ll tell you it’s worth upgrading just for this one feature alone.
The other huge advantage of this version is the introduction of an entirely Microsoft Excel based reporting engine. Previously you were dealing with FoxPro based reports and a sort of pseudo Excel tool depending on what reports you were running. In either case they could not be easily modified, and distributing the data around to non-Cobra users was not easy either. However, everything comes out as an Excel spreadsheet with version 5, so distribution is a piece of cake. And they’re all based upon customizable Excel templates and easily edited reporting definitions.
The underlying technology for Deltek Cobra 4.7 is Visual FoxPro, a now unsupported 32-bit database and programming language that is really getting long in the tooth. Deltek Cobra 5 ported the old FoxPro version’s interface to the current Microsoft .NET arena, bringing the product back into the 21st century.
Since Microsoft launched Windows 8 and also announced that they will stop supporting Windows XP entirely on April 8th 2014, organizations running a ‘current; minus 1’ version policy on operating systems are only now starting to migrate to Microsoft Windows 7. Since they have now released Cobra 5, Deltek doesn’t support Cobra 4.7 on 64-bit Windows operating systems, but at least for now continues to support that version on 32-bit systems. That’s not to say it doesn’t work on 64-bit systems, o’ contraire, it’s just to say it’s not officially supported. So if a problem crops up related to the operating system, you’re migrating back to a supported OS or up to Cobra 5 anyway.
And here’s where it gets a little more anecdotal. I’ve been training a lot of people in Cobra 5, either migrating them from 4.7 or training newbies. In either case, I’ve been able to see a much faster uptake with Cobra 5 than I saw with 4.7. So the less tangible benefit to an organization is easier and quicker training for new Cobra users.
So I’ve focused on the good stuff, but what about the initial migration? Some things you were doing before may have to change to accommodate the new software. Migrating a project from Cobra 4 to Cobra 5 is easy enough thanks to the Data Migration Utility provided by Deltek, but the Devil is always in the details. I’ve worked with many customers to help them through this transitional period, and expect to work with many more before version 4.7 finally goes the way of the Dinosaurs. Most of the problems I’ve encountered have been to do with how Deltek Cobra 5 relates to the existing environment. Changes have unpredictable effects on data, performance and even on the way you can use some of the features. Most of the functional problems have been, or are being tackled as part of the ongoing HotFix regimen.
Of course if you’re suffering from the pains of Cobra Migration, Ten Six has experienced consultants who can ease your pain. We’ve been through this many times and organizations do get where they need to be with our help.
Do it now or do it later is the point we’re at. At some point migration is going to become necessary as Deltek Cobra 4 and its underlying 32-bit FoxPro architecture fall further into obsolescence. On the whole, you’ll be glad you did it!
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