What if I Want to Keep My Legacy Systems?



Pundits like me make a nice living out of telling folks that they really need to replace their legacy systems and get with the new, more Web-friendly alternatives.  We present a variety of business reasons for such a move, along with practical considerations that revolve around newer platforms peforming better with newer software. 

But what about the other side of this argument?  What about the fact that ripping and replacing core systems costs a ton of money, and that it involves a commitment to an IT project that could take as long as five years?  What about the notion that large-scale retraining of personnel company-wide may also be necessary?  And what about the reality that in five years today’s technology will undoubtedly be hopelessly outdated? 

To be sure, there are convincing arguments on both sides of this debate, and the ultimate decider for any organization is going to be the cost/benefit ratio.  Suppose, then, that you crunch the numbers and find that the ratio favors you staying with your legacy systems for some or all applications? 

That question is addressed in part by a recent Computerworld article offering advice on how to give your legacy systems a tuneup to keep them functioning at an acceptable level.  A number of very practical tidbits are offered, including moving non-essential data to the cloud, retiring hardware that is rarely used, using off-site data repositories to save on storage space, standardizing services and storage, going virtual wherever it makes sense, deleting duplicate data, optimizing energy efficiency, and even rearranging the furniture to gain more physical floor space. 

These are good suggestions for making life easier for the present, but they don’t address a critical issue for virtually every enterprise in insurance, financial services, or elsewhere.  That key issue is preparing for the future.  Certainly, predicting the future of technology beyond the next two years or so is a speculative game at best, yet it does make sense to create an enterprise profile that leaves the company in a position to make rapid changes when and if the economic climate allows. 

So my key piece of additional advice is to make sure your enterprise is agile–not just in your methodology for completing IT projects, but in the sense that you prepare your enterprise for the future that you see coming for your company, your industry, and your techhnological environment.  If you believe, for example, that mobile will be the dominant platform in the years to come, get your enterprise ready to jump in on that when you judge the signals to be favorable. 

There’s nothing wrong with maximizing your current legacy systems in order to save in the short term.  Just make sure that once the opportunity to upgrade or expand comes along, you aren’t caught flat-footed with no plan in place to improve.


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