From Preservation to Innovation


Each generation eventually turns its attention toward the concept of legacy.  What impact will we have on future generations?  What events will be remembered?  What lessons can we teach?  How can we ensure our presence remains known for years to come?  The term legacy often evokes positive emotions when a legacy is established through a great achievement.  Yet, within IT, the term legacy is often associated with forgotten aspects of our infrastructure or areas where technology that once enabled business processes now holds us back from reaching the next goal.

Legacy systems within a business are often associated with the more discomforting notion of “technical debt.”  Technical debt is the result of falling behind on system maintenance, security updates, upgrades, and even perceived hindrance of innovations that could take an organization to the next level.  Within software development and customized solutions, technical debt further refers to the amount of work effort required to update code due to changes within the system, deprecation of frameworks, new regulations, changes in law, etc.  Each of these areas of concern equates to financial costs in the form of staffing, vendor management, procurement, and risk mitigation.

Applying Wisdom to Innovation

Legacy technology (legacy hardware, outdated software) faces a turning point in today’s market.  Newer organizations find is much easier to adopt newer technology trends while well-established organizations may take months or years before change can take effect.  There are, however, methods available to assist with successful adoption of newer technologies without losing the value of your organization’s legacy systems.  Ironically, these methods have existed for many years within frameworks such as LEAN, ITIL, and others.

  • Build Understanding:  Develop detailed documentation (remembering “who, what, when, where, why, how”) from the perspectives of the people, processes, and technologies.  Documentation should include justifications for why things are the way they are.  This will enable your team to identify an array of roadblocks and quick wins in advance.
  • Obtain Buy-In:  Three obstacles to change management include lack of awareness, lack of training, and lack of willingness to try something new.  Early input from key stakeholders across multiple departments (known as Joint Committees or Joint Application Development teams) allows for easier transitions.  This input is also valuable in determining the right change approach(es) from pilots, phased approaches, parallel operation, and direct cutover.
  • Collaborate Constantly:  Habitual changes often face the most resistance as actions and activities become seemingly involuntary.  Collaborating between team members supports creative thinking that can assist in addressing specific behaviors.  Is there a smaller change that can be made first that supports the larger goal?  Should the team implement a “hard stop” reminder within a process update?  Do certain learning types require an alternative form of training or coaching to be successful?
  • Support Creatively:  While monitoring and optimization are requisite activities for continuous improvement, user and stakeholder feedback should not end with a project.  Continued attention toward quantified metrics and qualified anecdotal information delivers lasting impact to ensure that the new solution remains supportive of the user community.

The Case for Cloud

When it comes to technical debt, premise-based systems are analogous to cars in the sense that they depreciate from the moment you take possession.  The same analogy applies to upgrades and maintenance within these systems.  The addition of continuously evolving cyber-attacks further the need for continuous upkeep that perpetuates and expands technical debt within an organization.

Cloud solutions, on the other hand, mitigate technical debt through the service provider’s ability to focus on service delivery, maintenance, and upkeep of a system.  Specialized cloud solutions further this benefit through various forms of managed services.  Leveraging cloud solutions inherently reduces technical debt while supporting rapid innovation.

In addition to mitigating technical debt, cloud solutions enable clients to enhance their service offerings through automated scalability and expandability.  Rather than spending days or weeks to engineer appropriate systems and network requirements, features can be added, customized, developed, and deployed through Agile collaboration between business users and developers in rapid succession.

Determining which cloud solution is right for your organization requires navigating through a jungle of “XaaS” topologies and service providers that continues to grow as new providers and applications enter the marketplace.

At Four Directions Consulting LLC, our team is uniquely positioned to help you navigate the world of "XaaS" and identify the right solution to meet your needs with a combination of advisory, referral, and vendor services aimed at delivering lasting solutions in a timely manner.

Jordan Reinhardt April 1, 2024
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