Sometimes, keeping up with technology isn’t always as simple as the push of a button.
We’ve discussed many times before how organizations tend to hang onto software packages long past their originally intended lifetimes. While upgrading these applications to something more recent is usually the preferred option from a technical perspective, political or financial constraints often mean that it isn’t an option. So what is a stakeholder to do?
The industries hardest-pressed by these sorts of issues are usually either those that are publicly funded, or those that deal with extremely sensitive data, and have been since the mid-20th Century. For example, institutions in finance and insurance industry; those companies who are the target customers for IBM’s z/OS or z/VM products; and government agencies who quite literally require an act of Congress to change mission-critical systems all suffer from the lack of upgradability.
We see the effect of these lack of upgrades around us all the time. Our credit card statements have cryptic descriptions instead of telling us exactly who we paid, the nurse’s workstations at our hospital are clouds of text-based applications shuffled around a windowed environment, and our public service workers are constantly looking for an employee or contractor they can afford who still remembers how to use a database program that was purchased in 1987, just so that they can get water bills out on time.
These ancient systems take an enormous toll on the backend in terms of maintenance and software expertise, but they also fail to compete with the user experience that makes modern software so much more effective. “Green screen” environments typically don’t have web portals or mobile access. At best, they have a rickety VPN-based solution for workers to access the system remotely.
Fortunately, there’s a third option emerging: there are now very powerful tools available that can use what integration capabilities these application have, and provide them with access to both web and mobile platforms. This sort of integration isn’t new, of course, but the cost of it has fallen dramatically. A few years ago, getting a system with no web or mobile portal would take a team of engineers six months or a year to build, while today, modern frameworks like Microsoft Lightswitch reduce team size to one or two experts and project duration to only a couple of weeks. What was previously a multi-million dollar project can now be done for a much lower cost.
There are more options than ever before in getting better access and performance from existing applications. Firms and agencies who have despaired of being able to replace or upgrade their systems should consider investing in one of these modernization solutions.