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The negatives of legacy IT

In the age of digital transformation Billy MacInnes muses over the increasingly negative associations that legacy IT suffers from

Brocade recently conducted research, which suggested many CEOs were being frustrated in their desire to “unlock the power of digital transformation” because IT departments were having to spend too much time on daily tasks, such as maintaining data security and privacy and legacy systems, to give it their undivided attention.

The good news was that a substantial 87% of respondents were adopting digital transformation strategies, although four-fifths of them admitted they were restricted in their ability to support it properly.

Brocade found the biggest obstacles were lack of budget (49%), security concerns (43%), the inflexibility of current systems (26%), and “the time drain of maintaining legacy systems” (22%). Almost a third claimed their legacy technology was so limited that far from supporting future innovation, it was even preventing the IT department delivering on immediate business demands.

However, my favourite finding from the report was that “almost nine in 10 (87%) of those surveyed feel that at least some employees think that the IT department always say ‘no’ by default”. How’s that for a slogan? “IT, the department that likes to say ‘no’.”

It found that 88% of respondents had experienced situations in the last year where the IT team has been forced “to defer or decline requests that would have clearly benefited the business”.  It added that “the vast majority of respondents’ organisations have missed out on benefits due to their IT department saying ‘no’ or ‘not yet’. These missed benefits are likely to have had an impact on organisations’ revenue”.

But while there may be many occasions when the IT department does say ‘no’. it isn’t just because it likes to say ‘no’ by default. As many as 77% of respondents accepted that IT leaders in their organisation were frustrated with saying ‘no’ or ‘not yet’ to the business. As the report notes, IT has been forced to reject requests because the legacy infrastructure is unable to support them.

“If organisations are able to utilise modern technologies,” Brocade states, “then the IT department might be able to say ‘yes’ more in an era of digital transformation.”

I wonder how that would feel to all those people in the IT department so accustomed to replying in the negative whenever someone asks them for something new and wonderful, just like they have on their smartphone or tablet at home. Will they need to learn to stop themselves from saying “no” in the new era of digital transformation? Will their mouths actually be able to shape the word or will they need to practice saying “yes” as they drive, train, tube, bus or cycle into work?

Will their spirits be uplifted going into work as they bask in their new-found positivity? Will the IT department become a byword for happy people, smiling, glowing, radiant as they contemplate all the wondrous new possibilities for their users? Will people working in other departments, initially suspicious and then amused by the radical transformation in their IT colleagues become sick of the sight of them and their relentless cheeriness?

Of course, people in the channel don’t have these problems because they are more used to saying “yes”. And even if they can’t say “yes”, they can usually say something like “no, but you can do it this way instead” because if they did say “no” outright they wouldn’t get the work.

Anyway, it’s interesting that legacy IT is becoming increasingly synonymous with negative IT. You can bet that when someone in the organisation said “yes” to buying that legacy technology way back when, they didn’t envisage it would be causing them to say “no” several years later.

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