The world has been racing into the digital age. Technologies like social media, mobile, analytics, and the cloud are the vehicles to get us there. Indeed, digital is the new, shiny race car that everyone wants to drive! At the same time, there is a real, palpable fear of being left behind—no one wants to become another Kodak or Blockbuster. On the other hand, being first to market with an innovative, new (digital) product could offer exciting possibilities and propel your organization into a new realm.
When it comes to taking advantage of digital, there have been two kinds of companies. Firstly, there are the digital natives who were born in the digital age. Consider the Amazons, Facebooks, and Googles of the world. Then there are the traditional enterprises: manufacturing, media, insurance, healthcare and the like who are trying to move mountains in order to transition into the digital world. Evidently these companies play a valuable role in the ecosystem today. Going digital can be transformative for them, but legacy systems are holding these organizations back. Now the word “legacy” tends to conjure images of large mainframes with green screens humming away in forgotten data centers. However today clearly “legacy” has a much wider connotation with some .NET applications, Visual Basic applications and so on having become legacy.
Legacy, therefore, represents a growing space. Applications have a shelf life after which they become legacy. Arguably the shelf life is decreasing thanks to the breathtaking pace of developments in the ongoing digital transformation. What is needed is a way to gracefully retire and replace systems, a slow but steady transition from one to the next. Clearly this cannot be a sudden, all out, rip and replace change. Instead what might make sense is to gradually evolve the system, piece by piece, module by module. Probably starting with the customer facing parts. It could be thought of as the new gradually replacing the old in a constant, iterative cycle. This means that organizations can no longer implement large systems and then just maintain them for years. Instead these systems have to be on a continual development cycle, a treadmill if you will. Traditional enterprises have to turn into software providers. Think continuous development and DevOps. Speed is of the essence. Yet not everything can be built ground up. Some systems have to be assembled from components that can be quickly developed.
Not too long back, standard software products were seen as the only way to go if applications were to be implemented. Custom was considered clunky, old world. Today it is the standard products that are rapidly becoming legacy: The ERPs, CRMs, the Supply Chain systems, and so on. A twist of fate for sure. Custom is coming back into the limelight. As it is only through custom software that companies can maintain the agility and flexibility to control features and functionality, to add new building blocks, and to stay aligned with a dynamic marketplace. Once again, it is back to the future all over again.
So the solution perhaps lies in an array of custom software applications or better still components that can be rapidly assembled to meet changing needs. An assembly line operation to churn out these components would be very helpful. Low-code platforms like QuickBase provide the means to rapidly build new software applications and components so as to be able to stay on the digital treadmill. The question then is what happens to legacy. No easy answers are certain, but perhaps an upcoming webinar—"Early Stage Digital Transformation: Leaving Your Legacy Systems Behind"—could offer some additional insight.
At the end of the day, software is becoming all pervasive. Digital natives have captured the imagination of one and all. Traditional organizations are busy playing catch up. As they say, if you can’t beat them, join them—And software offers the means to fight the digital battle and stay ahead of the game. The choice is stark: without the right digital tools at hand, companies are looking at the possibility of going extinct. Indeed, software has become mainstream. The race is on.