The Risks of Sticking with Legacy Technology

Legacy technology is like that old pair of jeans you wore as a teenager. “They are comfortable” was always your answer to any inquiry.

Legacy technology is like that old pair of jeans you wore as a teenager. “They are comfortable” was always your answer to any inquiry.

Move that anecdote onto a larger stage and you have a fairly accurate picture of why many organizations hold on to legacy technology—tools that are long outdated: comfort.

In a world of exponential change, legacy technology is trouble. Continuing to use outdated technology of all sorts is costly beyond the financial spectrum.

Legacy Technology Defined

A definition of legacy technology describes the term as “an old method, technology, computer system or application program, of, relating to, or being a previous or outdated computer system.”

This particular definition frames legacy technology in a negative light. There’s no getting around the fact that legacy technology is pervasive.  

In more recent news, several organizations have experienced setbacks from legacy technology:

  • Last year, Data Breaches compromised 15.1M patient records with 503 incidents.
  • In late 2016, British bank Tesco shut down online banking in early November after 40,000 accounts were compromised, half by hackers for fraudulent purposes. Andrew Tschonev, technical specialist at security firm Darktrace, stated: “With attackers targeting everyone and anyone, today’s businesses cannot safely assume that it won’t happen to them.”
  • In July 2016, Southwest Airlines canceled 2,300 flights when a router failed, delaying hundreds of thousands of passengers. The same issue grounded 451 Delta Air Lines flights weeks later.
  • In November 2015, Orly Airport in Paris was forced to ground planes for several hours when the airport’s weather data management system crashed. The system was Windows 3.1.

Bad PR? Yes, but Much More Than That

Reputations are important, and high-profile incidents like these don’t create great headlines. But the reasons to move on from legacy technology stretch further:

Data breaches. As Tesco discovered, legacy technology is open to cyber crime. Vendor support is often nonexistent, which limits valuable upgrades. Furthering security risks, advantages of improvements in security measures are not easily accessible for old systems.

Expensive functionality. Revamping outdated technology can be an expensive proposition, but running outdated technology increases operating costs also. Old hardware versions lack modern power-saving technology and the systems’ maintenance is expensive.

Compliance penalties. Depending on your industry, legacy technology may not be in compliance. In the medical industry, outdated software will fail to meet compliance standards, such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), resulting in severe financial penalties.

Customer loss. No matter the industry, offering outdated solutions and ideas derived from equally outdated technology will prompt customers to look elsewhere for better answers.

Unreliability. Many organizations hold on to legacy systems in the belief that the systems still work. If that’s not the case, consider what happens when something goes wrong, as seen in the detrimental examples above.

Perception issues. Leaders need to be aware of the message they’re sending to their employees. Consider how a younger employee who’s comfortable with technology might react to coping with the limitations of legacy technology. Aside from lost productivity, they may consider a new employer more willing to invest in current infrastructures.

“No” Can Be More Costly Than “Yes”

Replacing legacy technology is not entirely devoid of downsides, the most obvious being cost. Other deterrents include legacy replacement projects failing or the time and cost involved in system testing and end-user retraining.

But the question remains: Are you and your organization comfortable with the old, or are you identifying the Hard Trends that are shaping the future and embracing the new? Are you anticipating the need to invest and upgrade before tragedy occurs? There’s not one organization in the examples provided that doesn’t wish to go back and pre-solve the problems of outdated systems.

Before making any decisions, assess both Hard Trends and Soft Trends that affect your organization and industry. Consider the positive and negative impacts that replacing legacy systems may carry both internally and externally. Be certain that every element for the new system serves a well-defined business goal, now and in the future.

As I emphasize in my Anticipatory Organization Learning System, saying yes can be expensive, but saying no could be catastrophic.

7 Failures of Business Growth

If you want to stand out in today’s marketplace, you must work smarter, not harder. This is easier said than done, however, as despite their best intentions, companies get snarled in the glaring failures that derail business growth and stagnate profits.

In order for you to avoid these failures, you have to be aware of the most common ones and the strategies for combating them. The following will help you turn failure into success.

1. FAILURE TO ANTICIPATE

Most companies react to change as it occurs. You must anticipate and plan for future changes. You can anticipate a great deal in your industry. For example, are automobiles of the future mostly going to be electric instead of gas? Many think so. Could automobiles hover like drones instead of drive on four wheels? Of course!

Instead of being a crisis manager and reacting to change, anticipate changes so you can drive growth from the inside out. Spend one hour a week focusing on predictable opportunities to strategize and become more of an opportunity management organization.

2. FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE
There is a difference between informing and communicating. Informing is one-way and static,  and seldom leads to action. Communicating is two-way and dynamic, and usually leads to action. We have these fantastic Communication Age tools but use them in an Information Age way. If you can’t communicate internally with your staff, how can you communicate externally to customers and shareholders? When you focus on maximizing two-way communication, you can create a Communication Age organization and accelerate positive change.

3. FAILURE TO COLLABORATE
The majority of people tend to cooperate, which is a lower-level function different from collaboration. Even though we often use the word “collaborate,” we frequently really just mean “cooperate.” Cooperation means, “I won’t get in your way if you won’t get in mine.” Such an approach produces results but certainly not outstanding results, because it’s based on a scarcity mentality.

Collaboration is instead based on abundance and gets competitors to work with you rather than against you. It occurs when we put our heads together and ask ourselves, “How can we create a bigger pie for everyone?”

4. FAILURE TO INNOVATE
When asked what their last big innovation was, most companies have to go back five or ten years to cite something meaningful, as the majority of companies innovate once, form a company around the innovation, and then let it ride. They stop innovating and instead spend a great deal of effort asking themselves how they can become more efficient by doing more with less, reducing overhead, and using technology better. You must ask yourself how you can use technology and staff to create new products and services to increase sales all around. Innovation fuels profitability and efficiency.

5. FAILURE TO PRE-SOLVE PROBLEMS
Always remember that a problem isn’t an opportunity in disguise; it is a problem! A problem is only an opportunity before it occurs, and most problems we experience are predictable. If you ask customers what they want and then give it to them, you’re missing the real opportunity. Instead, you need to think at a level higher and ask yourself and your customers, “What problems are we about to have?” Develop new solutions based on those answers and base your product development on your customer’s future problems

6. FAILURE TO DE-COMMODITIZE
Unfortunately, most companies come up with something new and make it their main product. Other companies copy the product, and then market saturation occurs. Try de-commoditizing your offering by taking your product and putting a service wrapper around it. For example, in the electricity industry, the utility provider cannot increase prices without permission from ratepayers. One electric company bypassed this limitation by creating what it calls “digital electricity.” They sold customers a product that, for a higher cost, prevented any fluctuation of voltage from occurring. Many big companies signed up for this more expensive service, and in the near future, homeowners with streaming devices will have a similar interest. This electric utility took a product and wrapped a service around it in order to de-commoditize.

7. FAILURE TO DIFFERENTIATE
Too many companies become just like everyone else. True strategic planning needs to be more than numbers based; it needs to focus on how you can differentiate your company and products from those of the competition. You differentiate by avoiding all the failure modes we’ve discussed that prevent business growth. You anticipate, communicate, collaborate, innovate, pre-problem solve, and de-commoditize. Become what your competition isn’t in order to differentiate.

BUSINESS SUCCESS IS ON YOUR HORIZON

When you know the failures to avoid and the strategies for combating them, you’ll be well on your way to learning from these failures, rethinking the way business is done, and creating an organization that continues to grow despite external factors.

NEXT STEP: Pick up your copy of The Anticipatory Organization to discover proven strategies to accelerate innovation and shape the future–before someone else does it for you!

Selling Your Ideas Up: How to Overcome Objections and Get Your Ideas Approved

In an era of fiscal and time constraints, is it possible to sell your ideas to company leaders? Yes, but the success depends on how you frame the opportunity.

The first step is to avoid talking about the idea itself. While that may sound strange, it’s the primary sales rule that most people break. You may love your ideas, but the feeling isn’t always mutual. When you’re selling your ideas to others, you shouldn’t focus on your preferences. You must focus on the other person, and here’s how:

  • Understand the pain of the person.

Forget about how excited you are about the idea you want implemented. If you’re going to sell your idea, you have to understand where the other person’s pain is. Maybe they’re dealing with upset stockholders or perhaps sales are down. Do your research and uncover the main challenge they’re presently dealing with.

Once you know the other person’s pain, you can position your idea to sell as a solution to it. Essentially, you have to show the person that there’s a direct payoff to them if they approve your idea. If you know that the CEO’s greatest pain is a lack of communication between departments, then you have to consider your proposal and figure out how it can ease the pain and bring resolve to the situation.

Be sure to state it clearly to avoid guesswork. For example, you could say, “I know you’re dealing with poor internal communications. I’ve come across some things that I believe can help you overcome those challenges so the company can grow.”

Then talk about the new idea in terms of solving the current problem only. Don’t go into all the benefits, functions, features, or costs. Right now, you’re simply getting the decision maker on board with the idea and its problem-solving potential.

  • Solve the predictable problems in advance.

As you have this discussion, you’ll also have to address common objections. Plan for them in advance by figuring out what their objections could be and solve them before the discussion.

For example, if you’re talking to the CEO about your idea and you know budgets are tight, you can deduce that they will say, “This sounds great, but the CFO won’t approve this right now.” However, because you’ve anticipated this objection, you can reply, “I’ve already run this by the CFO because I knew it was important.”

Of course, before going to the CFO, you’ll have identified their greatest pain and presented the idea to solve it. If what you’re proposing is really a solution, and you showed how it benefits the company’s strategic imperatives with a good ROI, you will have a receptive CFO.

The goal is to overcome the potential blocks before they arise.

  • Use the power of certainty to your advantage.

When you’re selling your ideas, the people you’re talking to are thinking risk. Alleviate this fear by remembering that strategies based on uncertainty have high risk, while strategies based on certainty have low risk. Prior to the discussion, ask yourself, “What are the things I’m absolutely certain about regarding this idea? What are the current hard trends? Where is the industry, company, and economy going with or without this solution?”

Make your list the things you’re certain about. For example, mobile devices are quite popular. Is this a trend that you know will continue, or will people eventually trade in their mobile devices for an old flip phone of yesterday? The answer is obvious: people won’t go back. Look at sales trends, customers, the economy, and everything around you. Get clear on what’s a hard trend and what will pass.

Additionally, look at the strategic imperatives of the company and the current plan. Determine if your proposed idea is an accelerator or decelerator of that plan. You want to show how your idea can accelerate the plan and how your solution can help increase sales, innovation, and product development.

Go into your list of certainties by saying, “Here are things I’m certain about in the marketplace and in our company. Based on this certainty, here is why implementing this idea is a low-risk winner.”

An Anticipatory Approach to Selling

It’s important to remind yourself before the meeting that if you haven’t done the groundwork to excite the listener, you’ll lose them. As you’re busy talking about features and benefits, the other person is thinking about costs, risks, and uncertainties. Having a preemptive solution is an anticipatory approach to selling – you’re anticipating the problems, rejections, objections, and concerns so you can overcome them.

Anyone who has worked with C-level executives knows that leaders get excited about many things while carrying the weight of costs, controls, and constraints. Challenge those issues by making what you offer about priority, relevancy, and strategic imperatives to sell your ideas.

Will A.I. Disrupt Your Profession?

Artificial intelligence (A.I.) is a technological advance for humankind that has some people excited and others terrified of what is to come. The main concern is rooted in what A.I. will do to jobs, and how we as human beings will be affected by changes in digital and mechanical techniques.

A.I. and other new forms of autonomous machine function are in the process of transforming our personal and professional lives, and this represents a Hard Trend that will happen and a subject I’ve discussed for decades now. We are just starting to see some incredible progression in the A.I. space, giving us a chance to pre-solve problems involved in real-world applications of A.I.

But while function is one thing, the newfound transformation we’ve watched come to fruition is coming from machine learning, a subset of A.I. that enables machines to become better at tasks that were previously dependent on human intelligence. With advances in a machine’s capability to think and learn like people, it’s easier than ever to pre-program physical functions so A.I. can take over menial or mundane tasks. Take, for example, a study conducted by legal tech startup LawGeex, which challenged 20 experienced lawyers to test their skills and knowledge against an A.I.-powered system the company built.

A lawyer is not often considered replaceable by technology or artificial intelligence. In this challenge, the task was to review risks contained in five nondisclosure agreements — a simple undertaking given the group of legal professionals, which included associates and in-house lawyers from Goldman Sachs, Cisco, and Alston & Bird, as well as general counsel and sole practitioners. This lineup should easily have triumphed over an A.I.-powered algorithm, right?

Wrong.

As a matter of fact, the study revealed that the A.I. system actually matched the top-performing lawyer for accuracy, as both achieved 94%. As a group, the lawyers managed an average of 85%, with the worst performer scoring a 67%.

But what about the speed of those decisions? When reviewing the nondisclosure agreements, the A.I. system far outpaced the group, taking just 26 seconds to review all five documents, compared to the lawyers’ average speed of 92 minutes. That is a tremendous spread when compared to the near-perfect accuracy the algorithm performed at in that time! The fastest review time of a single lawyer in the group was 51 minutes — over 100 times slower than the A.I. system! And the slowest time was nearly a standstill pace, as it clocked in at 156 minutes.

While reviewing documents is just one of several parts of the job of a lawyer, this data further proves the Hard Trend that I implore everyone to pay attention to in the years to come. Artificial intelligence is here to stay, and by using machine learning and deep learning techniques, new A.I. systems are learning how to think better and better every day. So the question remains: Are you anticipating how A.I. can be used to automate tasks and do things that might seem impossible today — in other words, disrupt your industry? Are you starting to learn more about A.I. so that you can become a positive disruptor rather than become the disrupted?

For now, according to consultants, the fact remains that 23% of legal work can be easily performed using artificial intelligence; however, there are many aspects of a lawyer’s job, the obvious example being providing an emotional and compelling closing argument in court, that are currently beyond the capabilities of algorithms. While that may be the case today, what’s next? Using methods that I discuss in my latest book, The Anticipatory Organization, you can learn how to become an anticipatory thinker and be more entrepreneurial in the ways you apply A.I. technology to your profession.

Take the example of Alexa, which is utilized in an ever-growing number of applications, from ordering groceries to playing our favorite song during dinnertime. This device, enabled by A.I., has learned our routines and how to serve us better each day by listening to us ask it questions or give it tasks to accomplish.

Netflix and Spotify media streaming services are using A.I. to learn what we like to listen to or watch, and then, using this knowledge combined with their own databases, they can quickly suggest other songs or shows we may also enjoy. Over time they increasingly learn to understand the dynamics of what we like, recognizing our patterns enough to suggest new things to us we will most likely enjoy — very much like a best friend would introduce us to a new music group.

These are just two examples of many A.I.-enabled services that have been integrated into our lives, yet it was not too long ago that applications like these would have been viewed as an impossibility. In a relatively short amount of time they have become second nature in our lives. If A.I. can quickly accomplish a lawyer’s task today, then it can also learn how to accomplish many tasks in industries once thought untouchable by automation and machine learning, such as medicine, finance and design.

As an entrepreneur, it is increasingly important to understand what A.I. can do to create business value. A.I. is presently forecast to reach nearly $4 trillion by 2022. Reacting to this opportunity will only keep you behind and disrupted. It’s time to learn to become anticipatory leaders in our fields, solving problems before they happen, and elevating our thinking to actively shape a positive future for ourselves and others.

If you would like to learn more about how you can better anticipate transformation in the professional world and developments in artificial intelligence, then be sure to pick up my latest book, The Anticipatory Organization. Let me help you take your career to the next level and remain indispensable in an ever-changing technological frontier.