Why do operators feel the need to hold on to old systems and data? These are the same people that will replace a perfectly good TV with a 60” plasma for no other reason than they want to. Every year they get the latest laptop or smart phone and yet they just can’t part with a 10 year old CRM system. Legacy B/OSS is like the vintage cars that so many of us admire – they might still work but aren’t reliable for daily use and there’s little value in keeping them running. But unlike cars, there’s no nostalgia associated with legacy systems – turn them off.
IT has proven approaches to executing transformation and modernization projects but where operators fall down is the step that comes after the new system is installed, tested, and accepted – retirement of the old system. When business cases are made for system upgrades and replacement they almost always include savings from retirement, but in reality retirement isn’t happening. Call it a crisis of confidence or just covering one’s backside but those systems stay in service and spending on maintenance continues. A return on the investment in new systems will absolutely not happen if the old systems aren’t retired.
Various reports show that typically 60-80% of IT budgets are spent on maintenance. Maintenance of old systems and old data is expensive and when the level of maintenance is reduced on that old system, that’s when the cyber bad guys strike. Most legacy systems incorporate legacy security measures and when companies are struggling to protect their latest investments, legacy systems get the short shrift and become vulnerable. Vulnerability and data breach assessments repeatedly show that criminals look for the weak link and if that weakness is an old system that contains private or sensitive data, even if it’s dated, there’s a big problem.
Every operator has their own arguments for why a system can’t be turned off. Most common is the risk of losing valuable data. That’s a valid concern, but one that can be managed. You have plans for what happens if there is a fire, flood or earthquake in the data center so when you deploy a new system and migrate critical data you keep a backup and when the new system is up and running and proven in operation you get rid of the duplicates. Another argument is that telecom is a 24x7 business and operations cannot be interrupted. That’s a fact, but operators interrupt operations all the time. The key is planning and program management. New systems are never randomly inserted into operations and there is often a need to keep existing systems operating in parallel until personnel and leadership are confident the new system is performing as required. And when that happens, turn the old one off. Worst case, you have to recover or recreate some data which was probably not current anyway, but if it makes you feel better archive it off-line so it’s not vulnerable. More likely – nobody will ever miss it.
The value of transformation or even modest modernization efforts comes from the economies of newer, more efficient infrastructure and automated processes. But only if the systems and infrastructure being replaced actually go away.