What golf teaches us about evaluating legacy systems

A decade ago, a 72-hole score of 10 under par could win the PGA championship. Today, it’s a new game, where 20 under par clinches the trophy. As in golf, the right software and information technologies – when used strategically by skilled pros – can make a business more competitive. Here are some pro tips for evaluating legacy systems.

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Credit: Thinkstock

Last weekend, I watched the PGA Championship on TV. Several 20-something golf pros made the tournament exciting, setting new distance and scoring records. I asked an avid golfer friend how the young players could score 20 under par for the four-day event, when a decade ago, 10 or 11 under par would have won the trophy. My friend said that it’s the equipment – high-tech golf clubs make the high-tech balls go farther. Yet the average golfer would be thrilled to score par, which has remained the same forever.

Business performance and agility depend on IT equipment – hardware and software – and how well you use it. If your organization has a variety of legacy systems that are not integrated, do not communicate with each other, are built with outdated technology, or do not perform the way you would like, then it’s time for an evaluation.

Take lessons from a pro

Few great golfers are self-taught; nearly all use teaching professionals with specific methods and drills.

If your organization does not possess the skills to evaluate legacy systems, then enlist a pro. Your pro should employ a proven methodology and should be conversant in business, subject matter, and IT.

Assess your game

Pro golfers periodically assess their game and make adjustments to stay in the game.

Take the time to properly assess your IT systems to keep your organization in the competition.

  • Does your short game (immediate needs) or your long game (mid-range and long-term needs) need improvement? What are the most critical unmet needs?
  • Are your legacy systems agile, flexible, and scalable to meet your needs?
  • How well do your legacy systems align with your current IT strategy? For example, have you transitioned from on premises to Cloud deployment? Do you have a lean IT staff and outsource maintenance and support? Is mobile technology a must for new systems?

Look in your bag

It is good practice to empty your golf bag every now and then. You never know what you will find – unused gadgets and old golf balls just make the bag more cumbersome.

You should do the same with legacy systems. Put everything on the table. Identify all of the software and tools assigned to the task at hand. This includes “shadow IT” systems and small tools that are not approved software applications. Also, you may find that some software is not used as intended. These complicate, rather than enable, your business.

Engage lines of business and power users to help triage legacy systems. Document which systems and tools you should keep, eliminate, or replace.

Rank your legacy systems in order of importance. At the same time, consider what you can consolidate to lighten your load.

Get a grip

If you’re still using small wooden drivers with steel shafts (e.g., Excel spreadsheets and homegrown databases) and everyone else is using oversized titanium drivers with carbon fiber shafts (e.g., integrated, holistic software apps), then it may be time to replace your legacy systems with newer technology.

Sometimes all you need is a new set of grips on your golf clubs. This is a low cost, effective, solution that can provide additional years of play. The same goes for software. You may be able to extend the life of your system by

  • expanding the user community,
  • extending the systems to additional facilities, or
  • enabling new features and functionality.

If legacy systems are holding you back, then enlist a pro to help you sharpen your game. Conduct a proper legacy systems evaluation, triage your IT tools and apps, and determine if extending their life makes sense.

Up-to-date tools and equipment, coupled with a good strategy, skills and training, can make both golf pros and organizations more agile and competitive.

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