Monday, September 26, 2005

Companies with Legacy Systems May Be Missing Out of Knowledge of Aging Workers

Ben Lieberman, principal architect for BioLogic Software Consulting, has published an article suggesting that many enterprises still execute critical business operations through older software systems that run on large, mainframe computers rather than individual PCs. Wrting about legacy systems for IBM's developerWorks, he argues that while these conmpanies continually update, extend, and integrate their systems, paradoxically many of them "also have policies that threaten the single greatest source of knowledge about their older systems: their most senior personnel. Although the aging workforce represents a vast pool of talent and experience, these businesses neither actively recruit senior workers nor provide incentives to retain those on staff. Instead, they mistakenly assume that they can hire younger, lower-paid people to perform the same tasks."
Clearly, senior personnel with intimate knowledge of the systems slated for replacement should play a pivotal role in the project. An organization that does not recognize the unique value of these individuals for new system development as well as legacy system maintenance may find that it has wasted a few million dollars on a new system that is not as effective as the old one. By actively working to retain these senior team members, organizations can dramatically reduce the costs associated with legacy system maintenance as well as the risks associated with system integration and replacement. Providing incentives in the form of personal growth strategies, such as training in the use of automated tools, involvement with new company projects, and other continuous learning opportunities, will help entice older personnel to remain within the company, share critical system information, and make invaluable contributions to system modernization projects.
Also, see interesting SlashDot conversation about this article.

Source: "Keeping the lights on: Legacy systems and the maturing workforce" IBM (September 15, 2005)

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