Why legacy software represents a major business risk

All too often with local companies, and particularly large and established corporates, there is a risky over-reliance on the use of legacy software and systems. The same software that was put in place some 20 or 30 years back, still underpins key business processes and daily operations. And instead of integrating new software and adopting more innovative IT solutions, companies tend to stick to their tried and trusted ways.

In most instances, it is simply because they have invested both time and money into their existing software solutions – and at first glance, it appears to be the most cost-effective strategy to continue as is. Moreover, with business leaders struggling to keep afloat in a tough market, why pay attention (and divert other resources) to something that is seemingly working adequately?

Taking a Harder Look

When you scratch beneath the surface of this reasoning, however, it soon becomes apparent that this scenario is dangerous for businesses on a number of levels.

Firstly, every business, no matter its size, will require new hardware and more sophisticated technology at some point. But for those businesses still using legacy software, making the transition to new hardware quickly becomes problematic. In most cases, newer hardware requires upgrading the operating system which can prohibit the running of older applications.

So if companies insist on keeping their legacy software and running it on newer hardware, they usually have to employ specialist programmers. Companies undoubtedly pay a premium for these services, along with the required ongoing support for the system. In addition, companies often become beholden to a reducing pool of specific IT specialists who have the skills to troubleshoot on their particular system, and often cannot solve problems or correct glitches in a timely and cost-effective manner. Indeed, in the case of older programming languages, there is often redundant code – which means that the time it takes to implement necessary changes is extended. It thus becomes increasingly difficult to integrate newer services, platforms and equipment into the legacy system – and effectively keeps companies chained to older and less efficient business processes.

Fear of Change

Often, the fear of change and disruption to daily operations is the key factor underlying companies’ (increasingly expensive) reliance on legacy software. And given the way in which change was implemented in past years, this comes as no surprise. Software partners and developers would customarily take the ‘big bang’ approach to moving companies from old systems to new. These were generally packaged, off-the-shelf solutions, which have been peddled to business leaders as more cost effective than tailored software. Usually after lengthy configuration and integration projects these new systems are then implemented almost overnight. Inevitably, bugs and glitches creep in, the systems often experience downtime, and Intellectual Property stored in the legacy system would be put at risk. Staff would have little training time or guidance with regards to working with new systems and IT processes, harming efficiency and in some cases, daily business operations being severely interrupted. All this sudden disruption results in financial losses, damaged brand equity and goodwill to the business over the following months.

Future Proof

For companies looking to move away from legacy software and systems, however, this kind of ‘shock and awe’ approach is no longer necessary. They now have the option to partner with development houses to custom build a new solution from the ground up. This more tailored solution naturally takes into account the unique business needs and challenges, and moves the company onto new systems using a staggered or phased approach. In this way, there is little to no interruption to daily operations, as the new functions are developed they are run in tandem with – or parallel to – the older processes. As a result, employees are virtually unaware that any changes are taking place, and over time they intuitively learn and adjust to the newer systems.

Perhaps even more importantly, however, such custom-built solutions, if designed correctly using mainstream technology, should ensure that the business is now ‘future proof’ from an IT perspective – and will likely not have to make any further significant system refreshes in the coming decade. Moreover, the business will now be able to seamlessly integrate and adopt innovative enterprise technology solutions as they become available.

Image: Anita Hart via Flickr.



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