As I witness the rise of Kansas City’s startup scene and feel the entrepreneurial spirit flow across town, I’m envious of the technological clean slate most of these founders are working from. Starting from scratch, developing and implementing the tech that makes the most sense for your business—that’s a nice place to be.
Because let’s face it: Most companies in town, those established businesses a little longer in the tooth, are likely struggling with a mix of both new systems and older software and hardware. It’s a complex issue however you look at it. Many of these leaders know they need to move their company forward and realize technology needs to be an integral part of the strategy, but the move from legacy systems to something more agile is cumbersome at best and debilitating at worst.
What’s a CIO to do?
Don’t spin your wheels
“Our systems are good enough.”
I hear it all the time, and these business leaders honestly believe it. After all, if it’s not broke, don’t fix it, right? The problem is they don’t realize how much these legacy systems are slowing them down, especially as they try to move at the speed of business and keep up with the exponential growth of technology. Remember, legacy systems support legacy business processes, which in turn makes your businesses brittle and difficult to change and compete.
I’m not arguing that everything has to move to the cloud, but ask yourself a couple of questions as you’re looking at your systems: Does the vendor still support it? Is it owned by someone in the business? While legacy often suggests images of large mainframe systems, it really refers to any tech that’s holding you back from staying agile in the market.
Legacy systems can also suck up time and energy that could be better spent on initiatives that drive business growth. CIO reports that companies primarily using legacy systems spend up to 80 percent of the company’s resources just maintaining those systems and “trying to keep it from breaking,” instead of focusing on more important forward-thinking projects.
Another drawback? These systems carry with them an outdated notion of technology and its role in business. Instead of viewing IT as a strategic partner in the success of the company, it’s viewed as just another department under operations. That kind of perspective will do nothing to drive your strategic goals.
Don’t fear the future
Thankfully, many CIOs aren’t ignoring the problem. In a recent study of CIOs across the country, 44 percent believed legacy tech was holding them back from progressive digital transformation, and 51 percent had plans to replace existing infrastructure.
Rudy Puryear, the leader of the IT practice at consulting firm Bain & Co., recently told CIO that the most forward-thinking leaders commit not just to an innovative project here and there but to overhauling the IT systems at an enterprise level.
“The reality is that traditional IT isn’t really ready for digital. Leading CIOs understand that. They embrace new adaptive architectures so that everything they build and buy going forward is more modular, microservices and plug-and-play. They have a cloud-first mindset and they embrace far more agile, product-centric operating models.”
Of course, these tech pivots don’t come cheap or without major effort and buy-in across the organization. You not only have to evaluate the value and ROI that comes with a modernization project, but also any compliance, security and data issues. And will the upgrade allow the company to be even more innovative in the future?
Shanna Cotti-Osmanski, CIO at Charles River Laboratories, explains in ComputerWorld:
“Replacing some of these systems can be very expensive, so we have to look at the best way to solve the problem and drive the best value for the company. Everything we do in IT is aligned with our overall company goals. And we do business cases and value cases for every project we do.”
In the end, every company is different, and every decision creates a massive ripple effect across the business. Outside consultants can often be valuable by providing an additional perspective without the bias that can permeate many organizations.
If you’re ready to consider moving away from a legacy system, the time may be right for a fresh start. Because while you won’t be a green startup ever again, there’s no reason you can’t benefit from the same competitive advantage.
Rod Mack is vice president of strategic solutions at Veracity Consulting, a tech consulting team of problem-solvers and truth-tellers who deliver customized IT solutions for commercial and government clients across the U.S. Learn more at engageveracity.com, and share your thoughts on Facebook or Twitter @engageveracity.