In the context of technical debt we often hear environments or systems described as legacy. In this case the term implies a negative tone. Previously these same systems would have been considered ground breaking, revolutionary, "game-changing". In the fullness of time the value of a single technology diminishes, superseded by new innovation and scientific exploration. It is when the threshold of upkeep, costs, and risk are no longer justified that we begin tagging the apparatus as legacy.
Since we recognize the trend toward entropy, we can be deliberate and intentional, setting an expiration date for the technology choices we are making today. As the Improvement Paradox taught us, working smarter is the better choice and will allow us to establish a virtuous cycle of technology replacement, avoiding future technical debt.
"The great paradox of legacy is that it only happens after your career, but is completely shaped by what you do during it." -Jeff Nischwitz
We know it is hard to prioritize technology replacements given the seemingly immediate demands of business. Yet we favor the greater, long-term advantages (efficiency gains, reduced security risk, performance increases) over the short term gain of deferring upgrades. Just as lease replacement cycles allow us to normalize cash flow and reduce risk by regularly refreshing employee laptops, adhering to a routine schedule to deal with technology obsolescence will reduce the complexity and size of investment needed over massive platform replacements.
According to a recent Accenture study, there is senior level support for these types of initiatives. Edwin Van der Ouderaa reports that "83% of C-Suite executives want to maintain the best of legacy while moving to new technologies."
The legacy of heritage systems should be a positive one. Operating within our established shelf-life, these systems advance the company forward in the infinite game of business. Knowing the expiration date allows us to plan and gracefully retire these applications before the burden of debt overwhelms us.
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