Modernization. A buzzword that has been hanging around since the 1st Industrial Revolution...even more so in the 4th Industrial Revolution. You will be hard pressed to find a meeting in any organisation around the world, where planning a future strategy is discussed, that doesn’t include the phrase "We have to keep modernising to keep up with the competition" or "If we don't embrace technology we will be left behind". Why then do I run into legacy software at EVERY institution I encounter. Why do we preach modernisation and not actually live it? Let's unpack this...
If it ain't broke, why fix it?
Ahh yes, one of my favourite remarks to start a
fight discussion with. Look, the reasoning behind this is not always as extreme as I am portraying it, but companies hang on to these archaic systems for one main reason: it performs critical operations. Now this might be true, but since the system is so old it is most probably being run on "workarounds" and "patches". But it still gets the job done...until it doesn't. Is it really getting the "job done” even when half of the time spent completing that said job includes waiting around for these systems to start up, or trying to remember how to "workaround" some or other problem aptly named "An Internal Error Occurred". If your system is preventing you from doing your job, is it really getting the job done? Modernizing legacy systems is an opportunity to enhance the current functions, and finally ditch the baggage that gets in the way.
We just don't have the money..Not everything is measured in money, and ROI takes time. Modernising your dinosauric system is an investment in your company. It is unreasonable to shoot for a costly upgrade when the timing isn’t right, or the money would be better spent on another part of operations. But not spending on keeping up will cost you more in the long run. If one day the legacy system does fail, you will need to redo that system in a short turnaround time. This is possible but the extra costs involving a quick turnaround is not worth planning just a bit better. Not to mention the fact that there is no time to "bed" the new system and iron out kinks or train your staff sufficiently. No cost analysis will show you the real cost of not modernising. Not everything is measured in money, and ROI takes time. Modernising your dinosauric system is an investment in your company. It is unreasonable to shoot for a costly upgrade when the timing isn’t right, or if the money would be better spent on another part of the business operations. But, not spending on keeping your technology up to date will cost you more in the long run. If one day the legacy system does fail, you will need to redo the entire system in a short turnaround time as your day to day business cannot stop. This is possible, but the extra costs involving a quick turnaround can be astronomical. Not to mention the fact that there is no time to "bed" the new system, iron out the kinks or train your staff sufficiently. This can all be avoided with better planning and making sure you keep up to date on a schedule that fits your pocket. No cost analysis will show you the real loss of not modernising.
We can handle any problem buddyWe have a saying in South Africa...EISH BABA. To better explain, I think we should look at the following case study in a field we all understand. Just a disclaimer, this data was taken from a friend blogger of mine (THANKS P!).
Consider the cost of not modernizing: Comair, a subsidiary of Delta airlines, waited to modernize and found out the hard way that their legacy scheduling system had a capacity of 32,000 schedule changes per month. As this system is critical to operations, it follows that it would get put to the test during a critical time of business. For Comair, this was during a record-breaking snowstorm. Their software was pushed to its limit on December 25, 2004, shutting down operations, causing huge losses for the company and forcing the resignation of Comair President Randy Rademacher. Not quite grasping the lesson from this loss, parent company Delta continued to operate on a patchwork of computer networks they had stitched together over a decade of growth and through several mergers. In 2016 their legacy reservation management system crashed, grounding their entire fleet and costing them $150 million USD. Do you have the budget for a hiccup like that?
I don't like changeYes, this is human nature. We are creatures of habit but, honestly, those of us that excel, learned how to change and be agile. Yes new platforms involves retraining yourself, your staff, consumers and it is not without disruption I agree. There is a huge learning curve and honestly if we keep on replacing every system when new technologies becomes available will it ever stop? It may seem unsustainable to "upgrade" but the real answer is that agility is the true key to sustainability
Agile...the time is nowAgile software, without getting too technical, can be seen as a puzzle. You have a 1000 small pieces that create a bigger picture (the picture here being your business model). That means that if something changes in your company, you just have to change or adapt one puzzle piece. You can do this because that one piece can be removed from your puzzle and be worked on separately. Legacy software, on the other hand, has the same picture, but it is in the form of a painting. If something changes, you have to put a patch over that part of the painting, and this can only be done so many times before the painting is ruined. Because agile software consists of lots of different puzzle pieces, the developers collaborate with the company with each puzzle piece, making it an ongoing process that can change and adapt to be better until the last day. Once a project is finished, agile development would encompass that changes on the software/webware can be done quickly and efficiently. Think here days maybe weeks, but definitely not months.Basically what this means for you is that Agile development caters for changes to your business, without months of development costs to adapt the software.
Modernization is an opportunity for you to build something that works for you and with you, to support your business for decades to come, giving you the advantage in business over your competitors. That is why Harvard Business Review Analytic Services dubbed agile software and development “the competitive advantage for a digital age.” Can you be left behind?