There are a couple of things that almost always are true when I get in touch with an organisation with modernisation needs:
- It concerns the very core of both the IT landscape and the business operation
- The system(s) have been there for ages, very often it consists of system(s) from the first generation
- The systems are very often monolithic, i.e. it’s in effect one single system with more or less separate modules (often less)
- Very few people know the system and they are about to retire soon. Or have retired and are now billing outrageous hourly rates to keep on doing what they’ve done the last 20 years or so, only slower.
- The cost of ownership is high and rising and the ability to deliver new solutions is low and sinking
Yea, and one more thing – my clients have always already tried to replace the system 2-3 times. Or 8.
When I come in it’s always one of two issues triggering:
- Technology obsolescence. The vendor have finally pulled the plug on the platform, OS, language, database or the like is no longer on extended life support.
- Cost is skyrocketing and someone compared it with the subjective business value; e.g. a new CIO or CEO enters and see it for what it actually is.
It’s interesting to note that these IT organisations have always been very aware of the problem and have, in various ways, tried to mend and handle it, but they’ve never been able to show the long-term effect of not handling the problem correctly to the business owners. Small things like a mainframe OS upgrade become huge both from cost and risk perspective if you wait 15 years. Sure, the short-term business value of an OS upgrade is zero; but you build a huge technical dept that can eject to a cost level where it swamps your IT budget, inhibiting any other change or improvement for one or several years. Years where you have to tell your business owners, “sorry, but those bottom line improvement will have to wait”.
Bottom line: Don’t wait with those infrastructure or platforms upgrades. They will just become more expensive and risky. Don’t wait with that compiler upgrade, or that database engine renewal. Make sure your IT development goes fairly hand-in-hand with Moore’s Law, not opposite to it like the organisations I describe above. Because one day, you’ll need to modernise the application on top of the infrastructure and having an up to date infrastructure make life much easier.