Here are some of the valid reasons that development and product teams can give for not wanting to approach a legacy software product with the same enthusiasm that they once had.
- The solution is too hard to change
- It’s hard to support
- The technology is old and unexciting
- The technology is end-of-life
- We don’t have the budget to support this anymore
- The product is not useful, interesting or exciting
What are these excuses really saying when we drill into them?
The solution is too hard to change
It’s too hard to keep changing this software. We don’t want to keep supporting this product as it is. It’s too much work, it’s thankless and we’re increasingly uninterested in it.
It’s hard to support
The product might have too many features, too many modes of operation or too many ways a user can interact with it. It’s complicated, it’s difficult to deploy, train people for, and understand.
The technology is old and unexciting
This is adding nothing to our CV as developers. We don’t understand it, we don’t want to understand it, we’d rather do something that’s going to further our career and maybe get me a new job.
The technology is end-of-life
This might be true but how end-of-life is this? Extra support can always be bought and might be cheaper than re-inventing something.
We don’t have the budget to support this anymore
Is this claim actually justified in terms of profit and loss? Or is this just another way of saying ‘the technology is old and unexciting’?
The product is not useful, interesting or exciting
The developer is saying that they don’t see the point of the product. What about your customers?
Dealing With Legacy
This is the hard part of dealing with legacy. Everyone fears that they are getting left behind. The skills, the company and the product.
Does this mean that these excuses are invalid? Not at all. But do they lack context? Definitely? These are valid opinions which are not being taken seriously but none of these is valid reasons to stop developing a legacy software product.
Write down a list of your legacy excuses. Poll as many people in your company as you can and get their opinion on what they think is holding your product or your company back from innovation.
What pattern do you see?