Overcoming the Legacy Gravitational Pull

Contrary to popular belief, at the beginning of the second industrial revolution, electricity was largely seen as a dud. Though Thomas Edison first patented his famed light bulb in 1879, two decades later, the invention had made very little impact at home — only present in a mere 3 percent of American residences.

Flash forward to the 21st century and you will find that in many ways, this parallels our current digital era. Yes, the onslaught of information may sometimes give us the feeling that we have reached the tail end of the digital revolution, but in reality, there are many signs to suggest otherwise.

Legacy companies in particular are still miles off course. Despite the fact that most businesses have already launched their own website, mobile app or social media campaign, for many old-timers, truly reaping the benefits of the present age amounts to little more than a hazy pipe dream.

The Culprit

The trouble lies in a widespread gravitational pull towards analogical solutions. Puzzling as this may seem to younger readers, it is worth remembering that many people in today’s workforce come from a time when paper documents ruled the world.

As a result, even though by now the vast majority of the population are perfectly capable of using the internet, a natural inclination towards the tried and true persists.

In 2017, for example, the NHS remained the world’s largest purchaser of fax machines — a clear sign of something gone badly wrong.

Can Anything Be Done?

If this problem sounds familiar to you, successfully breaking through your company’s legacy force will require courage and determination. However, it can be achieved if a few vital steps are taken:

1. Be bold

When it comes to making your business fit for the future, small, gradual changes can no longer fit the bill. Although focusing on tiny outcomes would certainly be less disruptive, this is highly unlikely to generate the sort of momentum that is needed to break free from legacy habits.

So instead, begin to play offence by pouring resources into modernising your business architecture, building new ecosystems and equipping your company for the new challenges it will face.

2. Put customers first

By asking yourself the question, “What would be the optimal experience for our customers?” you make clients your ultimate point of focus.

Based on your company’s specific answer — which may be attained through customer surveys and interviews as well as conducting your own market research — you should then be able to decide if bespoke software is the way to go or an off-the-shelf solution will suffice.

3. Recruit the right team

Yet how can anyone ever dream of moving forward with an army of regressives holding them back? Alas, sad as this may be, embracing the new digital age often means making way for new talent — and letting go of the naysayers in the process.

While bringing in a strong chief digital officer is a great place to start, this should never be thought of as the endgame. From now on, you need skilled individuals who not only are comfortable with digital solutions, but instinctively advocate their use.

4. Retire old systems

Finally, just as most people would be unlikely to use Edison’s invention in its dated form today, the old style of doing things may have proven effective in the past, but in this day and age, it can turn your once successful business into a vacant warehouse faster than you can say “Newton.”

For this reason, the best way to subvert the legacy gravitational pull within your organisation is to simply nip the problem in the bud. By decisively getting rid of old systems, you leave others with no choice but to start making use of the newer technologies you have implemented.

Of course, no transformation programme will ever be easy, but through meaningful digital change across organisations, business leaders are able to capitalise on full value and embrace the opportunities that lie ahead.

David Blackwood

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