Why companies stay with legacy systems

Don’t become shackled to outdated technology and infrastructure

Modernization is a conversion, an opportunity to take stock of what serves you and what no longer does. Many businesses are working with systems that once served a purpose, but now are more hindrance than help. They are slow, unadaptable, and clunky. Legacy systems pose threats to security, agility, labor and capital investment, while refactoring and updating to modernized technology platforms fortifies companies with a sharpened competitive edge.

If outdated systems present so many issues, why do many companies hang on to them for so long?

“ If it ain’t broke, why fix it?! ”

Ahh, the old platitude. Related to another favorite – “But we’ve always done it this way!” While the reasoning isn’t always so extreme, companies often hang on to legacy systems simply because they perform critical operations. Even if that system is covered in workarounds and patches, it still “gets the job done.” But does it? Often times the “job” getting done is half maintenance or waiting around for the program to load, and half remembering the workarounds needed to get to the end goal. If your system is preventing you from doing your job, is it really getting the job done..? Modernizing legacy systems is an opportunity to keep the function, and finally ditch the baggage that gets in the way.

“ We just don’t have the budget. ”

Refactoring or even rebuilding critical platforms is an investment, and increasingly so as the system to be replaced gets older and older, or more and more patched up. It is unreasonable to spring for a costly upgrade when the timing isn’t right, or the money would be better spent on another part of operations. Frugality is absolutely important for business success, but because these protected systems are so vital, even a slight hiccup can be absolutely devastating.

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 just don’t like change. ”

New platforms mean retraining employees, reteaching consumers, and disrupting our positive business flow. New technology will introduce a huge learning curve that will cost time and resources to adapt to. Plus, if we just keep replacing our systems as new technology becomes available, when will it ever stop?

It may seem unsustainable to upgrade, but in reality, agility is the true key to sustainability. As systems age, developers with specialized skills in the dying technology become steadily more expensive and increasingly thin on the ground. Vendors retire old systems when they become unsustainable and outmoded. Those who are still around probably don’t know the system anyway if it hasn’t adapted with the times.

Time to get agile

Agile systems are those that can grow and adapt with your company, maintaining your competitive edge and allowing you to advance using the best tools available. Accessible resources will increase as cost decreases for systems that keep up with modern technology. Agile systems mitigate security risks as well, as new and dependable safety features are continuously implemented. Modernization is an opportunity to build something that works for you and with you, to support your business through decades to come.