Tech companies come and go; the sector is notorious that way. When tech companies die, the software they develop can live on in their clients’ businesses. Abandoned and unsupported, that software sickens and fails over time. The owner might not even be aware of it, as the lurking problem can be subtle – right up to the point of disaster.
Orphaned technology is a toxic waste product in our fast-moving industry. Don’t let it pollute your business. You can take steps to detect it and manage its risks.
Many organizations rely on some business-critical technology developed by a software team that, for whatever reason, has disbanded. It might affect a portal, a business-intelligence warehouse, data lake, a set of operations sites, or an integration service that helps these things talk to each other. Sometimes it's even a handy .exe file that the CFO runs every day from their workstation.
Usually, no one thinks about this stuff until things suddenly go wrong. Don’t wait for that to happen. There are measures that can be taken to manage the situation and prevent trouble down the road.
A strategic approach might include these steps:
- Inventory the integrations. What systems depend on this software, and what constitutes a suitable replacement? What must an update or a replacement of this software provide?
- Protect the data! If your outdated software contains critical “master data,” be sure to back it up regularly and define a restoration process. Synchronize the critical data elsewhere, and consider extra measures to ensure that the information stays accurate.
- Get the source code. If possible, get a copy of your software’s source code. This can help avoid a complete re-implementation.
- Call an expert. Bring in an experienced Solutions Architect or Business Analyst to clarify the potential problem and its impact and to outline the best ways to move forward.
Assess the situation and its risks. Gather details on the technology, process, and required expertise needed for a transition or overhaul. Act sooner rather than later; as your enterprise evolves and grows, orphaned software stagnates and the likelihood of failure rises.
Orphaned Software Failure
How do orphaned software problems manifest within a company? We see these three most frequently:
“We’ll get by – we’re good at work-arounds.”
How much time do you have? You have a Software Aging situation, and time to come up with a strategy.
“It stopped working completely! Emergency!”
Swapping in a replacement is the usual approach. This can be done manually, or, if you have the resources, something hacked together to get you by. Both options are painful in the short term. But it’s often better for a system to fail entirely than for it to infect your entire business with bad data.
“Something feels wrong, but I can’t put my finger on it.”
A non-obvious malfunction can subtly create bad business-critical data, which spreads undetected to integrated systems. Backing your way out of this scenario can be a nightmare.
What can you do about orphaned software?
First, avoid these problems entirely by working with a stable software development firm with a long, strong track record. You want a firm you can return to for years down the road, not one that disappears in six months. We don’t mean to brag, but as Dizzy Dean famously said, “It ain’t braggin’ if you can back it up.” Northwoods has been around since 1997, which makes us an anomaly in this crazy business.
Our team has learned and worked through decades of development paradigms, languages, architectures, and technologies. If you’re struggling with or suspect you have outdated software, or if your vendor isn’t solving your problem, contact us. We can help.