CEO of Rookout. Has led data-driven businesses, products and R&D teams over the last two decades, from startups to government organizations.
Cloud. Microservices. Containers. Serverless.
These are buzzwords everyone in the software industry has become familiar with. That’s not even getting into the world of “machine learning” and “AIOps” (artificial intelligence operations). While it’s true that many cutting-edge companies, particularly in the tech industry, are embracing and adopting modern software architectures and methodologies, the fact is that the large majority of companies are running legacy applications responsible for millions, if not billions, of dollars in revenue.
The pandemic has shown just how much we rely on these aging legacy IT systems. According to a recent report from AppDynamics, 66% of IT professionals say that “the pandemic has exposed weaknesses in their digital strategy, driving an urgent need to push through initiatives which were once a part of multiyear digital transformation programs.” While we can hope this time will be a forcing function for many businesses to reflect and modernize, history shows that change is hard and that if things return to normal, so will old processes.
Governments, banks, airlines — nearly every major industry is dealing with old IT, hardware and legacy code that makes moving fast impossible, resolving issues difficult and troubleshooting applications expensive. These old systems are more prone to have bugs, cause outages, and waste software engineering time.
One of the major reasons many of these organizations are slow to modernize is that they don’t want to jeopardize the stability of their core applications. If you ask their engineers, many of them wish they could snap their fingers and make them cloud-native, but the fact is that migrating to new technologies is cumbersome and often messy. While legacy code is a pain, it’s often responsible for a tremendous amount of revenue.
One way or another, it’s inevitable that traditional organizations will need to modernize. They will have to adopt agile processes and SaaS tools to keep up. But what they don’t need to do is pretend they are Netflix and Google. Unreasonable expectations will leave everyone frustrated. Instead, startup tools in the enterprise space need to build solutions that are easy for larger, more traditional companies to adopt — and suitable for their needs, pains, and current way of working.
Let’s offer these companies a bridge to the modern world, instead of expecting them to take a giant leap. Let’s offer them the right tools to modernize, adapt and shift into new cloud paradigms in a streamlined process. Because if as technologists we only appeal to the cutting edge, then we are leaving some of the most important and established companies behind to deal with unnecessary friction and bureaucracy.
There’s no point in hiding the obvious: This will create more work for engineers, who need to address the needs of both yesterday and tomorrow. When creating solutions for legacy systems, companies need to make sure those solutions also work seamlessly with modern cloud architectures. Those companies also need to make sure their solutions support various coding languages.
Admittedly, going these extra lengths is difficult and cumbersome. But at the end of the day, technology plays a crucial role in bridging the gap between the old world and the new. And if we are going to solve modern problems, then we are going to want all businesses to have access to modern tools, no matter where their current solutions place them. Only then will they be able to adapt to modern solutions.
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