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Stop supporting old systems

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In my opinion, it’s not worth the risk inherent from business inflexibility in supporting older systems. To be able to compete effectively, businesses need to be agile and this requires newer technology or at least a strategy of replacing legacy systems. I know there is the other argument. It works so why replace it. However with the second internet a fact, and the trend towards all things internet, business orientation, virtualization, and community collaboration technologies (blogs, RSS, wikis, online services to name a few), the planning should be to move away from old systems. This isn’t a new idea so what’s holding you back?  I don’t consider this article old news since it gives an interesting spin.

Have a look and share your views too ...

Thanks,
Stephen

Comments
  • I’m always amazed when vendors are perplexed as to why people don’t upgrade? Ignoring the fact that the word “old” is never defined, many “old” computers have continued usefulness within companies.

    1) Just because a vendor releases a new product doesn’t mean that it’s a convenient time for a company to upgrade.

    2) Just because a vendor releases a new product doesn’t mean a company has completed testing it’s compatibility with all of their other software/hardware.

    3) Just because a vendor releases a new product doesn’t mean the new features are compelling enough to warrant an upgrade.

    4) Just because a company decides when it’s appropriate to upgrade doesn’t mean the vendor can take an adversarial role until they upgrade!

    Using Ghost and the Universal Imaging Utility, my clients can quickly redeploy any of their computers (new or old). Granted older computers may not support the newer technologies you mentioned “blogs, RSS, wikis, online services to name a few” – but most companies truly don’t want many of their employees involved in those activities anyway.

    It’s true there’s a time to retire technology, but vendors need a wee bit of “real world” understanding, and stop attempting to force their upgrades.

  • Hi Blake,

    Thanks for you comments and I agree with all your points except for you last comment. You're right, it has nothing to do with the vendor when you upgrade, it is your call. As the article states it's your call. The article Stephen referenced highlights a point from Gartner that "CIOs should stop resuscitating costly legacy systems and just let some of them die in 2006 if they want to fight complexity in the enterprise". As an IT manager you have to weigh the risks with running unsupported systems, is it worth the upgrade and what is the cost vs. opportunity. I always took the perspective that any major change should be looked at from a business perspective.

    Now that being said there is a huge challenge in this country with our productivity and we really seem to be stuck in "good enough computing". Some how, I feel that we need to help our organizations with the right solution at the right time for a fair cost to keep a competitive advantage. Right now that is hard and any major change is major work and cost.

    I do like your point about vendors needing "real world" understanding. Yet, I don't think the issue is really forced upgrading. It's the ability to change. From my experience software is not a major cost when it comes to upgrades. For example, in Canada most large organizations with MS contracts with Software assurance have the right to upgrade at any time without any software costs and if they don’t the cost is not usually the challenge to deployment. It is the application testing, impact to the users, people cost of deployment, and difficulty to change. I know from talking to many managers, just keeping up with the patches from every company over the past few years have been a challenge and when you think of testing all applications on a corporate desktop it make my head spin. I still smile and cringe.. when I see the all the DOS apps that still exist today. Right now change is hard....Yet, I don’t know an IT manager that wouldn't jump at the chance to stay as current as possible, if it didn’t hurt so much. Just as business is becoming dynamic we need to develop systems and evolve the platform to allow for an ease of change.

    As vendors, I think we need to focus on the people and making change an easier decision for the right reasons. I know at MS, we are doing a lot of work with our platform especially with the Dynamic systems initiative with much more to do. A good example of what we’ve done to date is the latest release of Windows 2003 R2. I have heard some great feedback on upgrade experiences as it seems that they have generally been done with an ease and in most cases they have chosen to upgrade as the features made sense for their environment. I think we are just are at the edge of breaking out of the manual reality in managing our distributed systems and moving to more of a self managed environment.

    Change management is being a skill and task that all IT managers have some level of struggle with. But there is hope and your feedback is being heard. While it's not as sexy as all the other features of Vista, I’m excited about its potential as it is being developed with a focus on deployment, manageability and application compatibility.

    Great comments on upgrading… yet I can’t agree with your last comments as RSS is becoming an important technology and I’ve seen many companies use RSS aggregators and Blogs internally.

    Thanks,

    John

  • Trust me John, I’m sure you & I are in complete agreement. . .my last point was relating to the fact that there are employees (i.e. receptionist, warehouse workers, customer service representatives, drivers, mailroom clerks) that have NO business using the cool software discussed – they’re supposed to be “working!”

    While there are indeed many employees that will need new computers to welcome in the “Web 2.0 World” – their old computers are wonderful upgrades for those employees that truly never do more than check their email or write a Word document.

  • Hi Blake, John,

    You both make good arguments and I’m in agreement that change is not required just for the sake of change.

    Your vendor points are good ones Blake. Plus as John indicated, factoring in the often hidden human costs adds another dimension and these also have to be considered. I sit on the board of a HR Software company, and we find these hidden costs are key issues often overlooked since we are still at an early stage of c-exec level understanding of its impact.

    Moreover in my experience, there are situations where companies are paying exorbitant maintenance costs to maintain an older, complex legacy system. If they took the time to do the analysis factoring in the people variables, they would find it cost justified to plan for an update. However, this is not a forced change but a carefully managed one over a longer term. And then there is the strategic factor. It’s worth the time to do a SWOT (strength/weakness; opportunities/threat) analysis of the business situation with the legacy system versus an updated system. This then ties into business flexibility and competitive advantage offered by updated systems. Though not essential for many companies where the business models are well established and change is slow, it is a consideration factor for those in dynamic and competitive environments. I have an upcoming interview with Roger Sessions next week [Tuesday Jan 10] where he touches on this area plus on compliance and governance topics and how there will be business failures. He makes some interesting and challenging statements that need further thought from IT managers.

    Great discussion and thank you for the fine exchange and feedback!

    Best regards,
    Stephen

  • you make a great point Blake. Seperating the knowledge vs. task based worker is important. We need to look at the right tool for the job. Not matching the role to the tools they need to carry out their day to day activities can really have a -ve effect on productivity.

  • Productivity is also about collaboration, engagement, and easier communication concerning business process. Moreover, strategic alignment requires everyone, no matter where or what job, being on the same page; and having the mechanisms or tools for communications facilitate this interaction. Elements of Web 2.0 will support communications if planned and managed. I had a recent talk with Ross Mayfield where he provides some interesting case studies and the interview may appear here. Internal blogs and corporate Wikis that are broader based do have merit and this also implies inclusion and not so much a separation of roles or exclusion of employee groups. This is the trend. As a result these technologies will supplement e-mail as one example. This has already been proven in practice with a measurable increase in productivity.

    Thank you,
    Stephen

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