Caption: No, getting off of legacy systems is not easy, but it is necessary

Caption: No, getting off of legacy systems is not easy, but it is necessary
Image Credit: Eric Snider

As the person with the CIO job, we like to spend our time looking forward and thinking about the importance of information technology. Trying to detect IT trends and then positioning our IT department to be where it needs to be in order to take advantage of changes when they occur. What we generally don’t do enough of is look at our IT shop and discover what is old and needs to be removed. Moving off of legacy IT systems is hard work, but it is part of the job of the person who is in the CIO position.

Problems Moving Off Of Legacy Systems

I’m hoping that we all realize that every IT system that our department installs has a “shelf life”. What this means is that it’s not going to last forever. IT systems are created using tools that are easily available today, but may go away tomorrow. They run on systems with operating systems that will continue to be updated until they are discontinued. It may not be possible to move an existing legacy system to a new operating system because of the way that it has been designed. Finally, the people who created the legacy system may no longer be with your company and support for any changes would be very expensive.

What this means is that when we decide to move off of a legacy system, there are a lot of decisions that we have to make as CIO. One of the more trendy decisions is if we want to host the replacement application in “the cloud”. If we decide that this is the way that we want to go, then we’re may to have to deal with the challenge of integrating multiple systems from different vendors in order to replace the single legacy system.

Simply put, replacing a legacy system is not an easy task. It’s going to be up to your project management team to take a long hard look at the legacy system, the people in the company who are using it, and what they use it for. One area that can be especially sticky is more often than not, these legacy systems will have woven their way into how the company does it management reporting. What this means for the replacement project is that you’re going to end up recreating a great deal of custom reporting. Surprises like this can easily result in significant project delays.

Why The Effort To Move Off Of Legacy Systems Is Worth It

Given all of the challenges that are associated with trying to move off of a legacy system, it makes sense that a CIO just might say that it’s not worth it. This kind of project can be put off until the next CIO comes along. However, that never works – something will happen, such as support for an old operating system being discontinued, and suddenly the CIO will be forced to take action. It’s always better to have a plan and be executing it instead of being forced to take action.

One of the most important things that the CIO must be aware of is that your company is not asking you to replace a legacy system. In fact, they may actively not want you to do this. They have grown accustomed to the system (or systems) that they are currently using and what you are proposing represents change and nobody likes change. As you swap out the legacy system for the new replacement, there is a good chance that at time processes and functions that people use every day may break. This is not going to make anyone happier about your IT project.

However, as CIO you know that moving off of legacy systems is something that the company needs to continuously be doing. One thing that you’ll need to keep in mind is that this replacement program has a return on investment associated with it. In order to maximize that return, you are going to have to get rid of the legacy system as quickly as possible. The one thing that I’ve heard from CIOs who have been involved in projects like this is that their biggest regret is moving too slow.

What All Of This Means For You

Forward looking CIOs need to take the time to look backwards. They are in charge of a large number of legacy systems and these systems need to be replaced in order to keep up with the times. How that replacement is done will have a big impact on the company.

Moving off of legacy systems can be a big challenge. CIOs have to decide if the replacement system will live in the cloud and if so, how they are going to interface to the multiple systems from multiple vendors that they will probably use to replace the single legacy system. Additionally, a great deal of custom reporting may have been created and this will all have to be replaced. When a legacy system is being replaced, the rest of the company may not support the IT department – they like their legacy system. However, you need to do it quickly so that you can maximize your return on investment.

Replacement of legacy systems is a key part of the CIO job. You need to be tracking the age of all of your systems and taking action when it is needed. Becoming good at replacing legacy systems will ensure that your company never gets caught with old or outdated IT systems. However, keep in mind that this task is never done!

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Department Leadership Skills™

Question For You:

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

The CIO of any company is judged by how much his or her department is able to accomplish. Now that just about every department in the company understands the importance of information technology, IT departments are being asked to do more and more every day. What this means for the person with the CIO job is that you are constantly facing the challenge of trying to accomplish as much as you can while not overloading your department.

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How CIOs Can Deal With The Problem Of Silos

by drjim on August 17, 2016

Silos exist inside and outside of IT, CIOs need a plan to deal with them

Silos exist inside and outside of IT, CIOs need a plan to deal with them
Image Credit: Rex Hammock

As the person with the CIO job at your company, you have control over the domain of IT. If you want it to happen in your department, then it’s going to happen. However, if we step outside of your department into finance, or accounting, or sales, your power starts to drop off rather quickly because they don’t have the same view of the importance of information technology. The one thing that you don’t seem to be able to do is to get different departments to work well with your IT department. There has to be a way to solve this problem of silos within the company.

Why Do Silos Exist?

I’ve known many a CIO to throw their hands up in disgust when some project that they were working on ran into problems because another department was not willing to support it. They just could not understand why the other department could not see how important the project was – it was clear to the IT department! However, there have been many other situations where CIOs that I’ve been working with who were overloaded would routinely assign a low priority to any request that came from outside of their department.

This whole “silo” mentality is really a cultural issue that we all have to learn how to deal with. The reason that we have to deal with silos is because everyone has absorbed a dense set of traditions, rules, and conventions that we have absorbed from our surroundings. All of this is done in an unconscious way and so we don’t even know that we are doing it (“I am in IT, you are in Accounting”). Silos show up when we create a classification of the world around us and then we resist any attempt to change those classifications.

What’s a CIO to do when he or she encounters a world that is filled with silos? In many companies when this situation is discovered, this is when the management consultants are brought in. They show up, spend time talking with everyone, and eventually present the company with a new set of organizational charts. If you have ever lived through one of these silo busting reorganizations, then you know that their impact is often short lived – we just build new silos and go on with our lives.

What Can CIOs Do About Silos?

Let us admit that every organization has a problem with a silo mentality. What this means for anyone in the CIO position is that you are going to have to find a way to deal with this in a way that can allow the IT department to accomplish everything that it needs to get done. I’m not sure if it’s going to help you out a lot, but the good news is that you are not alone!

Classic stories of IT departments that were part of companies that had severe silo problems are easy to find. The financial crisis was bad for everyone, but it was especially bad for the UBS bank. It turns out that they were both selling financial instruments that had no value while other parts of the company were buying the very same instruments. Clearly a silo problem. Sony has struggled to regain market share in the past few years. One of its biggest problems has been that each of its products has been an island – they don’t work together. Yet another case of silo syndrome.

As the CIO you need to take steps to prevent silos from forming both outside of the IT department and within it. There are a number of different things that you can do. One is to move employees around from project to project. Encourage them to change projects if what they are working on does not meet their needs. Make sure that everyone is getting new challenges. Another key silo busting technique is to prevent people from referring to people by which department they work in (“marketing”), instead insist that people are referred to by their name first, and their department second.

What All Of This Means For You

CIOs need to realize that silos exist both within their company and within their IT department. Silos can prevent projects and initiatives from moving forward because people simply don’t want to talk to each other. CIOs can’t ignore silos, they need to take action.

It turns out that silos exist because of the way that people think. We form a view of the world in our heads and then we resist any attempts to try to change our views. Bringing in management consultants can change things, but rarely does it solve the silo problem. CIOs can address the problems caused by silos by moving employees from project to project and encouraging them to switch teams if they want to. CIOs should also make sure that their staff stop refereeing to other people by which department they work in – use names.

Silos are a part of the modern business environment. Every CIO needs to realize this and come up with a plan for dealing with them. There is really no magic involved. Instead, CIOs need to work with their departments and make sure that no one is permitted to stay in a position long enough to develop a silo mentality.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Department Leadership Skills™

Question For You: How can a CIO get other departments to help him or her get rid of silos?

Click here to get automatic updates when The Accidental Successful CIO Blog is updated.

P.S.: Free subscriptions to The Accidental Successful CIO Newsletter are now available. Learn what you need to know to do the job. Subscribe now: Click Here!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

As the person with the CIO job, we like to spend our time looking forward and thinking about the importance of information technology. Trying to detect IT trends and then positioning our IT department to be where it needs to be in order to take advantage of changes when they occur. What we generally don’t do enough of is look at our IT shop and discover what is old and needs to be removed. Moving off of legacy IT systems is hard work, but it is part of the job of the person who is in the CIO position.

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CIOs Need To Make Sure They Don’t Do Outsourcing The Wrong Way

August 10, 2016

Here we are at the start of the 21st Century and although we all know about the importance of information technology, are we still talking about outsourcing? The answer is yes. Outsourcing is a difficult task for anyone with the CIO job to take on. There are a lot of different variable involved, every company […]

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How Can CIOs Deal With The Challenge Of Creating Very Large Networks?

July 27, 2016

I’m pretty sure that you would agree with me if I told you that your enterprise network will just be getting bigger and bigger over time. As the person with the CIO job, it’s going to be your job to find ways for the company to keep building out its network without going broke. Got […]

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Netflix Closed Their Last Data Center – Should You Do The Same?

July 20, 2016

The Netflix announcement back in August of 2015 wasn’t a very big deal. In fact it probably went unnoticed by most people. However, from the point of view of those of us with the CIO job, it was sorta like a bomb had gone off. The company sent an email out that announced that in […]

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CIO Mistakes – Treating Mobile Like Desktop Development

July 13, 2016

CIOs are in charge of the IT department and this means that we’re in charge of all of the software that our firm develops. In the past, a great deal of the software that we created was designed to be used throughout the company on desktops. The arrival of the mobile age has changed all […]

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Why Aren’t Our Networks Staying Up?

June 29, 2016

Does anyone besides me remember the phone system? You could be just about anywhere in the world at any time and you could pick up a phone, call someone, and your call would go right through. The Plain Old Telephone System (POTS) just worked. Now nothing is ever perfect and the POTS wasn’t perfect either, […]

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What To Do When Your Boss Is Younger Than You Are

June 22, 2016

What have you always pictured your boss looking like? If you are anything like me, you’ve always pictured them as a grumpy old man. Or a grumpy old woman if you want to get all modern. However, there is one thing that I’ve never really pictured my boss as being – younger than I am! […]

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What Role Does A CIO Play When Companies Merge?

June 15, 2016

The person with CIO job faces many different challenges during their career. One of the biggest is one that is completely out of their control – when their company decides to merge with another company. When companies decide to merge, the senior management often make many promises to the press and shareholders of how much […]

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