We’re 20 years into the new century now. What are the chances that you’d be viewing this on a computer that runs on Windows XP? Remotely slim, presumably.
With that for context, consider the fact that several large businesses across industries such as banking and finance, healthcare, telecommunications, government, etc. are still functioning on systems that can be considered at par with the good ol’ Windows XP.
If using Windows XP is a pain in this day and age, why do large corporations still trudge along with these systems that keep weighing them down?
To put it simply, enterprise systems are created to accommodate multiple, different user roles along with a range of actions that a user can perform under a specific role. They provide mission-critical solutions and executes a majority of tasks inherent to the enterprise.
Legacy Software: A system so outdated, it’s actually a business risk
Here’s what happened to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) on 15th April, also known as Tax Day (the deadline for individual citizens to file their taxes in the US) in 2018. A technical error manifested in the system owing to which a lot of citizens were unable to file their IT returns online. The IRS did not go into the specifics at the time, but this glitch was attributed to the fact that their system was almost 60 years old and ill-equipped to handle modern-day challenges.
Whereas, it is generally accepted that a software product has an ideal lifecycle of 5 years.
That said, age isn’t always an appropriate measure to gauge a legacy system. Factors such as its underlying technology, architecture, and design play a crucial role. As a product owner, you can evaluate where your system stands based on the questions listed below –
1. Does your system lack standard features?
As is common with technological tools, features once considered top-of-the-line turn fairly standard with the passage of time. Be it an integrated analytics/intelligence feature or a specific functionality crucial to your industry, being unable to capitalize on the latest technology leaves your business at risk of being functionally obsolete.
As elementary instances, accessibility across devices or having 2-factor authentication for log-ins are standard features across applications today. Consider features such as these to gauge where your application stands.
An ideal scenario is when your software not only has standard features in place but is also accommodating of emerging and cutting-edge technology that renders your business a competitive advantage.
2. Does it struggle to integrate with other systems?
Seamless integration of software and technology is a key factor behind efficient business processes. A system that doesn’t support integration prevents you from automatically transferring your data to another system – say from an ERP to a CRM – indicates serious inefficiencies and results in increased manual work.
Modern versions of enterprise systems have to support expansive requirements. Systems that are more open to integration make upgrades and transitions easier to execute.
3. Does it compel users to devise workarounds?
A classic predicament that legacy system users face is the inability of the software to support their functions and processes. An increasing number of users are thus forced to alter processes in order to accommodate the system’s inflexibility. Notice when users maintain separate worksheets outside of the system to store data or make manual calculations while using finance applications?
Workarounds are a common compensation when limited and outdated software becomes untenable over time. Longer the time taken to execute software modernization, the more the company loses out on maximizing the productivity of the business.
4. Does it struggle to cope with scaling and diversification?
The need for a system upgrade enhances as a company scales or diversifies. Any change within the organization stems from renewed goals and objectives, which necessitates the development of newer systems. It may manifest in the need to be cloud-based, or be more intuitive, or seek tech upgrades in terms of augmented reality or artificial intelligence. Therefore, any expansion on an organizational level calls for a software assessment and eventual upgrade.
5. Does it lead to productivity taking a hit?
User frustration is bound to manifest in slowed productivity over time. The sheer inconvenience caused by slow-functioning and outdated software causes a deeply negative impact on any business. Left unchecked, this leads to demotivation among users and is a major factor behind labor attrition. A UX audit, in such cases, helps in zeroing on the lagging areas and suggest remedial measures. By helping users accomplish their jobs with ease and finesse, a UX assessment ends up serving the needs and goals of the business in the best possible manner.
6. Does it cause customer numbers to decline?
Dissatisfied customers indicate the presence of an incompetent infrastructure ill-equipped to handle their queries. Technology and market landscapes are constantly evolving, raising the complexity of customer requirements. Addressing this needs a system that seamlessly fulfills customer demands and provides meaningful support. A contemporary software system ensures that you address customer demands and stay ahead of the curve.
Complex legacy systems have no reason to remain so in this day and age. Companies are instead well-advised to invest in creating workplace tools that are easy to use and efficient. Availing the services of an experienced team of UX professionals ensures quality user experiences that translate to business success. By avoiding technical and UX debts, the product performs optimally and frees users of the strain, which ultimately boils down to savings in terms of time and money in the best interests of the business.