There are two camps when it comes to investing in office technology:
1) What’s new and when can we get it?
2) If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
If you fall into the latter group (i.e. you still fax documents, use PDQ payment machines or don’t know the difference between an ISDN and IP based phone line), you’re not alone.
When facing costs, disruption and downtime, most companies will put off modernizing their systems and live with legacy technology for as long as possible. In fact, according to our recent study, 70% of IT leaders in the UK are still clinging on to their legacy devices.
The longer you’ve had your office tech, the harder it is to part with. After all, if there’s one thing businesses love, it’s reliability – and when a system has been working well enough for a number of years, who can really be arsed to change it?
But there’s only so long you can delay the inevitable upgrade, and in this blog we’ll explore why living in a legacy tech trap can cost you more in the long run.
Before we start, let’s outline what legacy technologies are and why they’re still in use.
Legacy technologies are out-dated systems, hardware, technologies or software that are still in use, simply because they continue to do the job they were initially designed to do. They may be clunky, restrictive or limited in their efficiency but, as long as they still perform their core function, we hold on to them for dear life.
Think of legacy technology like an old, ugly, pair of slippers that you can’t bear to part with. They’re comfortable, familiar and you’ve learnt to live with the smell over time so you don’t even notice it anymore. With legacy tech, every year that passes may see a few ‘holes’ appear but you ‘patch them up’ and settle back into BAU. But here’s the thing: as the years go by, the gap between your business and the advances in society and technology grows wider and that’s when the real issues start.
Issue no.1: Parts and personnel can be hard to come by
Even the trustiest of systems will go down from time to time and, when they do, we often need to call on the experts to get us up and running again.
The trouble is, new people coming into the tech support industry will only be trained in the latest and greatest advances. Maintenance companies don’t want to waste their time supporting archaic or rare systems. And, with technology evolving more rapidly than ever, IT managers and vendors need to focus their energy on modern, mainstream solutions to keep up with the constant changes.
If you do find someone with the right knowledge and experience, getting parts or updates for discontinued technology or software can be just as tricky. Once suppliers are no longer selling a system, they withdraw all support and you’re left on your own. Like any vintage vehicle, the older your kit gets, the harder it will be to restore and repair it (and it’ll probably cost more too).
Issue no.2: Time is money (and you’re throwing it away)
We’ve all been there, you’re 95% through your big pitch presentation, already able to taste the ice-cold pint patiently waiting for you in the fridge when you’re done. Just as you’re about to wrap it up, the cursor turns in to a spinning timer, and proceeds to do so for the next painful 45 minutes. How much would you pay at that point to have tech that’s up to speed?
It’s not breaking news that legacy systems are only going to continue to get slower, and so will your overall productivity if you continue to use them. Every year you cling to your old tech, for fear of the time you’ll lose replacing it, you’re missing out on the efficiencies being delivered by the latest models and methods in the market. It’s a false time economy.
Issue no.3: Your phone lines are about to be turned off
By 2025, businesses across the entirety of the UK are set to turn off their legacy phone lines which basically means that existing phone lines (including analogue and ISDN) will stop functioning and everything will be IP based.
The good news is, users will get ‘anytime, anywhere’ access to all their necessary content from whatever device they want. They’ll be able to edit, manage and shoot off documents whilst on the move – perfect for today’s flexible workforce.
The bad news is, lots of businesses will now be forced into making big switches on tight deadlines, discovering that everything from their alarm systems to payment devices to fax machines rely on an analogue line.
According to our survey, 81% of businesses are still using ISDN telephone lines and almost half of those are continuing to use analogue versions. And with time ticking, it looks like demand may be on the rise for IP systems in the months ahead which will only make the switch smoother of course.
Issue no.4: No friends, no benefits
To put it simply: legacy systems and new technologies have 0% compatibility. If you’re running an out-of-date piece of equipment, it will often sit as an island in your office ecosystem. Strong but stubborn, it will fail to integrate with the rest of your equipment, new software and updates available. As a result, you’ll miss out on both the cost and time savings to be made here.
You may also suffer with your security. Because there’s no one to have your back and the security standards for most legacy technology are not even from this century, security breaches can easily creep in – exposing your business to some pretty nasty scenarios and loss of crucial data. There are lots of pioneering practices and programmes to help beat the ever evolving cyberattacks out there. But, if your tech is from the dark ages, chances are you won’t be able to use them, leaving you exposed and out in the cold.
Issue no.5: Turning off talent
When it comes to recruitment, having the latest tech is a must for new talent in the industry, as well as supporting the universal move towards flexible working. Employee experience is incredibly important. No-one wants to invest their time and effort in learning the ‘quirks’ of a legacy system; a system that will have zero relevance for the rest of their career and may well, in some cases, be older than they are.
Have you ever tried explaining a fax machine to a recent graduate? They’ll have phone apps that can scan better than your beloved photocopier and the thought of being restricted to office-based devices doesn’t exist in their wireless world. The use of innovative, intuitive and sustainable technology is key to their engagement and growth. If you can’t provide employees with a stimulating and smooth working environment, they’ll find it somewhere else.
So why do we get caught in the legacy tech trap?
With so many reasons to update your tech, it’s hard to understand why more businesses don’t make the move sooner. We talked to 100 IT leaders to outline what the biggest roadblocks are to modernising a legacy system, and here are their answers:
- Knowledge of the situation 72%
- Cost 61%
- Workforce/skills gap 56%
- Third-party supplier restrictions 53%
- Technical resources 35%
- Other 2%
Whilst we appreciate these things do need a little consideration, the sceptics amongst us may say this list sounds more like excuses than rationale; a chance to procrastinate when really the plaster just needs to come off. In the long run, the savings in time, cost, respect and stress levels far outweigh any investments in a decaying legacy offering. You just have to bite the bullet.
How can I make the process less painful?
Firstly, choosing a great provider helps. More than half of our panel said poor quality support services held them back from updating their legacy systems, with 88% considering speed of response (read: crap customer experience) one of the biggest challenges stopping them from completing a workplace transformation.
Replacing legacy technology is a milestone moment for any business, so pick your partner wisely. Look for providers that are compliant with regulatory requirements and provide solutions that are both easy to learn and to implement.
Secondly, the key to a successful system migration is to pace yourself. Don’t leave everything to the last minute but, equally, don’t go jumping the gun just because you think you should be getting what everyone else has got.
Updating your technology should be a tailored approach, suited to your organisation’s individual requirements (not based on the humble brags of a tool you follow on LinkedIn). The process itself takes time, and so it should – which is why planning your legacy escape strategy now is going to benefit you massively a few years down the line.
Finally, and how could we not mention this, consider the cloud. Migrating your legacy system to a cloud-based service will not only ramp up the performance and overall competitiveness of your organisation, but it’ll save you a load of hassle in the long run too. We’ve talked about the incompatibility struggle of legacy tech – and with the lack of updates and vendor support, your data security is at pretty high risk too. If you want to avoid that drama, it’s worth checking out the benefits of a cloud-based system here.