Let Go of Retro: How to Avoid the Perils of Outdated Technology

The case for abandoning outdated legacy technology is indeed compelling. Yet change doesn't always come easily for an organization, particularly in a highly uncertain business environment.

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For businesses and public entities alike, the pandemic has brought a technology reckoning, often followed by a realization that the legacy systems on which they rely are not only outdated, but also put the organization at a competitive disadvantage by limiting its ability to connect, collaborate, gain insight from data and serve customers.

Across the business landscape, organizations continue to pay the price for depending too heavily on a range of antiquated systems, whether it's an old enterprise resource planning (ERP) software product, an outmoded customer relationship management (CRM) system, an archaic accounting software or some other legacy solution. Ultimately, these dependencies cause more business problems than they solve.

In this era of remote working, digital customer journeys and cloud-based apps, the risks of sticking too long with outdated network communications software and systems are especially pronounced. You may know them by acronyms like TDM, DS1, DS3, MPLS and POTS (short for "plain old telephone service"). As loathe as some organizations are to leave their IT comfort zone and venture into the world of modern, cloud-based connectivity and collaboration, the realities of sticking with legacy systems are a whole lot less appealing for the following reasons:

• Poor tech = poor EX = poor CX. The employee experience (EX) suffers due to a lack of communication and collaboration tools and lack of network access. Not only does this make it more difficult to attract and retain talent, but it also translates directly into a subpar customer experience (CX).

• Unmet customer expectations. Organizations that can't provide a seamless, omnichannel CX are destined to be left behind.

• No fuel for the growth engine. Without ready access to integrated network tools and capabilities (apps, automation, etc.), employee engagement and productivity wane, and innovation stagnates.

• Brand reputation and profitability are negatively impacted as a result.

Regardless of the business you're in, your clients demand rich, seamless, digitized and app-enabled engagements with your organization, with 24/7 access to those experiences. As for employees, they expect work-from-anywhere connectivity, communication and collaboration, supported by a reliable, secure, high-bandwidth network with robust, cloud-based apps. Remote work is here to stay, and the future of work will be built on connected, hybrid experiences. By 2025, Upwork projects that 36.2 million Americans will be working remotely, an 87% increase from pre-pandemic rates. To thrive amid the talent scarcity we're experiencing today, your organizational IT infrastructure, your network communications and your overall employee experience must cater to the demands for greater flexibility and a digitally rich work experience.

As much as shedding legacy tech is an investment in your customers and your workforce, it's also an important step in protecting and future-proofing your business and its assets. Aging voice communications systems are fast becoming obsolete as vendors dramatically increase prices, retire equipment and ultimately pull the plug on product support. Instead of continuing to travel that dead-end street, organizations are moving to modern multi-channel alternatives to legacy voice services like unified communications as a service (UCaaS).

On the network communications front, IP-based solutions like the software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) are scalable to grow with a business. They're built with multiple layers of security, a key consideration given the mounting frequency and complexity of cybersecurity threats. Moving to a modern network with SD-WAN positions organizations to take advantage of emerging cloud-based solutions, chiefly secure access service edge (SASE), a framework of interwoven network and security technologies that protect an organization's data and systems from unwanted access.

The case for abandoning outdated legacy technology is indeed compelling. Yet change doesn't always come easily for an organization, particularly in a highly uncertain business environment. The imminent decommissioning or sunsetting of legacy software or hardware can leave an organization with no choice but to move on from an old system. Rather than being forced to modernize, however, this is the kind of thing businesses can undertake on their own terms. So where to begin? Start with an honest assessment of your organization's tech infrastructure (perhaps with help from an independent expert), evaluating it through the lens of organizational goals, strategy and culture. Once you've identified gaps and weaknesses, do your due diligence. Cast a wide net and evaluate multiple options to find a solution that will get your organization where it wants to go.

In making that decision, one final piece of advice: Look beyond the technology itself to the company and people behind the solution. What you want is a provider that treats you like a true partner long after you've made the initial investment, one you trust to act as an advisor, a sounding board and a business ally over the long-term that guarantees their solution and your satisfaction. Not only does the combination of high-quality solutions and high-end service and support make the prospect of investing in and implementing new technology significantly less daunting, but it also puts an organization in a position to quickly reap the benefits of its investment.

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