Living in the Past: Legacy vs Updated Information Technology


Information Technology


"We have met the enemy and he is us." ~ Walt Kelly, Pogo cartoon creator and author. 

When it comes to information technology, sometimes we are our own worst enemy. We are supposed to use information technology to develop business-driven innovation. Come up with better ways to gain productivity. Uncover more suitable ways to communicate with the customers. Introduce the appropriate technology to resolve workflow issues. Process faster and more accurately. That's the promise of technology. 


But that's not what we always do.

Instead, many businesses have become curators and custodians of systems and applications from a day gone by. What we actually do with our time and resources is maintain the past: those legacy systems and legacy applications that are in that nether world – somewhere between paper and e-something. 


Sometimes it’s a two-headed beast, both hardware and application, each needing the other to exist. An old application that only runs on outdated hardware. Or conversely, legacy hardware that only allows us to run older applications. Too much of our time, money, and resources are used up, never to be retrieved, in order to maintain what was already created before us. 


The Blob: Legacy Technology

There was a sci-fi movie back in the late 50s called The Blob starring Steve McQueen before he could choose movie roles a little more selectively. The Blob was a monster from outer space which consumed everything in its path and grew larger and larger. That's a legacy IT system or application for you. Slowly, inexorably eating dollars and staff, insatiable and growing. More storage. Feed me. More service. Feed me. You keep feeding it but it never stops wanting more. And part of what it's eating is your future. Remember the future? The one we talked about earlier that pertained to improving the way things are run around here?


Ok, why don't we do it? 

It could be we didn't take the time to notice the magnitude of the problem. If that's true, then shame on us. It could be we didn't ask. Double shame on us. It could be that we didn't understand the alternatives. Hmmmm……maybe. It is more likely that it was because someone in the position to determine where the dollars go says something like, "maybe next year when things get a little better". Or, "if it isn't broke, don't fix it".  

So we do it in fits and starts without purpose and without planning. We do it on a "need" basis and the only thing that gets us off "the dime."

And if that's the case, then triple shame on us because we didn't put together a coherent, positive, forward-looking plan with a real ROI that would make that person slap themselves on the forehead and say "By golly, you're right, I've been a fool not to see it." 


How do you know when information technology is legacy? 

When you can no longer effectively make changes to the system or software easily. The warning signs are there. Your application provider tells you there is no upgrade path. Your application provider tells you that they no longer are supporting your version. You end up with in-house specialists that you're afraid to lose because "only Fred knows how to run that thing." Or your application provider goes out of business. There's also the mistaken belief that legacy references mainframes or old DOS applications, but a number of Microsoft and Novell operating systems are unsupported today as well. 


What to Do: Use Information Technology to Drive Business Innovation

The devil may be in the details and space permits just the briefest of outlines. But it’s a start.


1. Determine where you want to go. Better productivity? Improved customer communication? Faster processing? Be precise. Be specific.

2. Build a baseline. Where are you today? Get a baseline so you know what improvement actually means. Make it quantifiable and measurable. Make it achievable.

3. Develop a plan. Get everyone on board so you can implement information technology the right way. 

4. Repeat above. (Did you really think this was a one time event?)


If you need help applying these tips, we are here to help you every step of the way. Contact us and we can set up a time to talk.