BHS Technology News Bytes

The Problem With Legacy Thinking in IT

Legacy thinking is a big problem. We all know people that fall into one or more of the following modes of thinking:

  • Votes for a particular party because their parents did.
  • Thinks the seasons are caused by the elliptical orbit of Earth, because that’s what they were taught at school.
  • Doesn’t try anything new, because “they know what they like”.
  • Does things a particular way because “that’s how it’s always been done”.

Legacy in the Auto Industry
A classic example of legacy thinking would be that during the 1950′s and 1960′s, the American car manufacturers knew that the public wanted big flashy cars–and they wanted a new one every few years. Obsolescence was built in and cars got bigger and bigger. In the 1970′s, a group of Middle Eastern countries nearly quadrupled the price of oil, and suddenly people were buying economical Japanese cars.

In a classic “cave-man” move, the automotive unions were out with sledgehammers and tried to encourage people to damage Japanese cars. Rather than trying to adapt and make the same things that people now wanted, the automotive status quo was slow to change.

The IT “Rust Belt”

In more modern times, we see this same script play out where many of our cities have a “rust belt” of closed down industries. Politicians are trying to “stimulate” this old manufacturing, instead of asking whether there’s a better type of industry to be had.

The same thing is happening in IT. Some people think IT is an expense like fuel or coal, rather than a tool like a furnace or wrench–as such, they try to get as much done using as few pieces of technology as possible.

Some people think that because software has no physically moving parts, that software should just run forever; not realising that as Operating Systems change, software applications must change along with them.

Generational Gaps
The biggest shift in IT, though, is at the consumer level. This is where you can see clear generational gaps. Ask anyone over 35 how to solve the newspaper crisis and they’ll regurgitate a mantra from 10 to 15 years ago that applied to the music industry back then: “they need to find a new business model”. Ask a 15 year old how to solve it, and they’ll probably ask you “who buys newspapers these days?”.

If you point out to each group who the current winners are (aggregation services that link at no cost to them to content that cost someone else money to produce) and who the current losers are (those who have created content at great expense only to have someone else leach off that work) and at what expense, you’ll get blank looks from the older generations. Previous generations are likely to repeat their previous mantra, whilst the younger generations will most likely ask why you need to keep these around at all?

Recognise the script?

Decentralization: The IT Holy Grail
The simple reasoning of what’s going on is news will still continue to be reported; but it’s getting decentralised. Go back to the late 1990′s and you see it used to be thusly for every facet of your life. There was a centralised place where you went for help/guidance with that aspect. For example:

  • You went to a bank to deal with your finances.
  • You went to a library to get a book.
  • You went to a video store to rent a movie.
  • You went to your television to watch a program.

These days, we do online banking, purchase eBooks, watch Netflix or Apple TV, and watch programs wherever we want. This is all IT driven, but it doesn’t stop there – the ultimate goal of technology right now is to offload everything that was centralised and put the power into the hands of the individual. It’s a process that’s only half-way there, currently, but when the generation behind The Millenials (the “Digital Natives”) grows up, we’ll see this process rapidly speed up. At that point, perhaps the way most Millenials (the 10 to 25 yr olds) think will also be deemed “Legacy Thinking”.

We’ll have more on the problems with legacy thinking in IT in a future newsletter. In the meantime, Contact us for more information! We’d love to help!