Replacing outdated software is no entrepreneur’s idea of a good time. It takes time to select and deploy a new system. It often involves a significant and disruptive learning curve for employees accustomed to the old software. And it inevitably comes with a hefty price tag.

And yet it’s absolutely essential to replace outdated business systems once they’ve outlived their usefulness. Not doing so presents all kinds of risks to the enterprise, including cybersecurity vulnerabilities, suboptimal productivity, and fleeing clients. The cost of waiting too long to upgrade is far greater than the cost of doing so when the time is right.

The same logic applies beyond the software realm as well. Outdated business equipment and tools cost enterprises billions each year. The longer they put off upgrading, the more costly and difficult the transition will eventually be.

If they’re even around to experience it, that is. Every year, whole enterprises collapse under the weight of obsolete systems and equipment. They succumb to competitors more nimble and forward-thinking than they.

Don’t go the way of your behind-the-times competitors. Learn how to spot the telltale signs of an outdated business asset and gain the confidence necessary to invest in an upgrade.

You’re Not Keeping Up With Complex Data Systems 

You can’t solve tomorrow’s problems with yesterday’s tools. If you haven’t updated your monitoring tools to match your increasing surge of data streams, then it’s time to invest in a solution that can actually keep pace.

It’s likely that your DevOps team is using an Application Performance Monitoring (APM) tool. But have you revisited your priorities when it comes to tracking modern data stacks?

Data observability goes beyond APM to provide visibility into today’s complex data pipelines at a holistic level. With more and more data entering your catalog than ever, your enterprise needs more machine to machine hybrid processes to configure and optimize your data. Multi-dimensional data observability tools provide a more capable, streamlined cloud that can help you make sense of the raging river of data your activities generate.

You’re Investing Too Much in Resource Management and Not Enough in Value-Creating Activities

Managing outdated resources takes a lot of work. This is partly due to the fact that legacy software and systems lack the automation capabilities of modern alternatives and partly due to the fact that those legacy products tend to be inefficient at a baseline. As you’re no doubt aware, every dollar invested in resource management is a dollar not invested in value-creating or value-enhancing activities. In other words, it’s a dollar that won’t generate a direct return on investment.

Your Organization’s Security Is at Risk

This is what pushes many reluctant businesses to discard outdated tools and invest in newer, better replacements. With limited exceptions, notably for infrastructure not connected to the public internet, the simple truth of the matter is that legacy systems are less secure than modern systems. In other words, the outdated software you’re so fond of could be putting your organization at risk in a big way. 

You’re Not Achieving the Same Outcomes As Your Competitors

You can’t see all the way into your competitors’ operations. But you can see those operations’ outputs and can tell easily enough when they’re leaving yours in the dust.

Here, the “how” is less important than the “what.” If you know that your outdated tools or equipment are at least partly to blame for the dulling of your enterprise’s competitive edge, you know just as well that you need to replace those tools or equipment. You don’t need to know exactly how your lunch is being eaten if you know what you must do to call for the tab.

Your Old Tools and Equipment Are Much Less Efficient Than Newer Alternatives

On the subject of outputs, you know as well as anyone that a difference in output as small as a percentage point or two adds up quickly at scale. And that’s the best-case scenario — tools or equipment that only curtail your productivity by a small amount. More likely, your outdated systems cost you a great deal more than that. 

Your Old Tools No Longer Qualify for Manufacturer Support or Aren’t Being Updated Regularly

Legacy systems are less secure at a baseline than modern alternatives, as we’ve seen. But there’s another hidden danger of outdated software: the end of the manufacturer’s update-and-patch cycle.

When a software developer ends support for a particular version (or an entire program), it creates what’s known as end-of-life software, or EOL. EOL software is technically functional, if lacking in comparison to newer versions, but it’s no longer on the receiving end of regularly scheduled or emergency updates to fix bugs or counter newly discovered vulnerabilities. That makes its users sitting ducks for malicious actors eager to exploit those bugs and vulnerabilities (or find new ones).

You’re Relying on Institutional Knowledge That Could Be Vulnerable Over Time

Institutional knowledge is a valuable asset for any organization. Unfortunately, it’s possible to be overly reliant on concentrated institutional knowledge when you rely on outdated systems that only a few people on your team (or just one) know how to operate. If and when those team members move on, you’ll be left scrambling to train up new expertise.

That is, if you can even find anyone willing to learn an obsolete system that won’t serve them anywhere else.

Know When to Upgrade and When to Wait It Out

The upgrade cycle is different in every business. What works for one enterprise might not be the best course of action for another. It’s important for business owners to recognize the potential limits of general advice about when to move on from tools that have served them well but may not be showing their age or limitations.

Then again, sometimes it’s quite clear when it’s time to ditch outdated tools and equipment and invest in a newer replacement. If you’ve been in any of the scenarios described here, you know when the writing's on the wall.

And if you haven’t, or don’t realize you’re in one now? Learn to see the signs of stress on your enterprise. Perhaps you’re reliant on one or two employees nearing retirement. Or you’re using software so old that the manufacturer no longer provides security updates for it. Or you’re working with tools that do just fine in smaller settings but can’t scale to your current needs.

You’ll know it when you see it. If you’re looking for it, that is.