How to Break the Gravitational Pull of Legacy Software Applications

November 02, 2017

We have all been there, and I’ve been there a lot. In the not too distant past, I was required to use an IBM mainframe to do my “word processing” when PC based solutions had far better functionality. Later, I was required to use email software that wasn’t compatible with the internet. The list goes on, and the problem still exists. There is hope: please read on for some ideas on how to break away from legacy software.

A recent article from McKinsey & Company outlined the best practices employed by organizations that have made significant strides in scaling their digital transformations. While reading the article, it occurred to me that these same principles apply to the challenges associated with replacing legacy software applications.

1) Think Big:

Incrementalism—the practice of making numerous small improvements—is the death of a thousand cuts. A legacy system may eventually be better than it was, but it will never catch up to future needs. President Kennedy didn’t simply enter America into the space race; he challenged the country to put a man on the moon.

Like Kennedy, you too will need a bold vision that everyone can understand and identify with—one that focuses on users’ goals, delivers real value and supports the organizational strategy and mission. What would be the optimal experience for people who need information resources to do their jobs in your organization? How will you bridge, connect or break down information silos? When is the soonest that you can get this accomplished?

2) Build for Speed:

Recruit a team of “fast movers” from every level in your organization. Find people with a propensity for action. Avoid those who want to maintain the status quo. They likely have a vested interest in not changing, or they simply have other priorities.

As with your team, choose technology that provides visible, tangible results—quickly. Paralysis is the price of perfection. Focus on the 80% that’s game changing, the remaining 20% can be achieved over time. Be prepared to change “on the fly”. Think iterations, not monoliths.

3) Create and Maintain Momentum:

Why the emphasis on being bold and fast? Remember, ‘An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force’. Your team will need sufficient momentum to be the unbalancing force that dislodges the status quo.

While your big-thinking, fast-moving, agile team can pack a big punch, it needs partners who share the vision, both within your organization and outside. Promote your ideas and plans to everyone. Don’t like cold calls or meetings? Create an in-house digital presence for your project. Blogs. White papers. Prototypes. Mini-feasibility studies. Use cases. Find out what people respond to and get it for them. They will rally to the cause.

To conclude, there has been a huge shift in the rate at which new software applications can be evaluated and adopted. Software can now be subscribed to rather than purchased. This eliminates the upfront acquisition cost. Furthermore, the Software as a Service (SaaS) model eliminates the need to install the application on your equipment. In effect, software companies have adopted business practices that empower end users to quickly and cost effectively migrate away from legacy applications.

Think big, go fast and build momentum. This time next year, you could be free from the tyranny of a legacy software application. Good luck!

Ron Aspe

Ron Aspe

Ron Aspe is the founder and CEO of Lucidea, and along with a dedicated and innovative team has built a company that actualizes his vision of offering the best and most comprehensive information and knowledge management solutions to clients worldwide. Ron is passionate about creating ground breaking solutions for knowledge, content and information professionals, as well as archivists, librarians, and curators.

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