Technology Obsolescence Risk Management Part 1: The Why

Posted by Neil Sheppard on February 1, 2024
Technology Obsolescence Risk Management Part 1: The Why

Technology obsolescence risk management is a key cost-saving exercise that allows agile enterprises to move forward. In the first of a three-part series, let's explore why technology risk management is so important.

Technology obsolescence risk management is becoming vital for enterprise. As the pace of change accelerates, it's crucial that none of your technology is left behind.

While we tend to focus on the excitement of innovation and brand-new tools that investment in technology can bring, the biggest benefit usually comes from identifying and removing outdated technology. It may not be as creative or thrilling as innovation, but the benefits of technology obsolescence management can be greater.

In the next two parts of this series, we'll explore what technology obsolescence risk management involves and who should be responsible. First, however, let's consider why removing obsolescence is vital.

The Dangers Of Outdated Technology

Hiding within your IT landscape are a variety of IT components that are limping to the end of their lifespan. This might be as simple as a printer on one floor of an office that no-one really uses anymore and doesn't need replacing, but it could also be a vital server that holds mission-critical data for your business.

In 2015, one of Paris' airports was forced to shut down for seven hours due to a network failure. Air traffic controller unions reported that this was due to a server that was running Windows 3.1, and the airport also had machines running Windows XP and UNIX that were up to 20 years old.

Hopefully, your organization doesn't have a similar setup, but can you be sure? Do you have a clear picture of how old each of your IT components is and when they'll reach end-of-life?

When a piece of legacy hardware ceases to be compatible with your core technology and simply isn't used very much any longer, then it's unlikely to draw much attention to itself. It can be all too easy to find yourself paying to maintain technology that you don't need.

Perhaps worse, that technology could leave an open back door for cyber criminals to access your data. Last year, Cybernews hijacked 28,000 unsecured printers and printed out security guidance to raise awareness of the dangers unsecured hardware poses.

To keep your IT landscape efficient, effective, and affordable, not to mention avoid expensive incidents, you need to have oversight of your legacy technology and the means to replace it without causing further issues. That's where technology obsolescence risk management comes in.

The Five Types Of Legacy IT Components

Looking through your IT components, you'll find a variety of types of outdated technology that you'll need to deal with in different ways. Not all of them are dangerous, but all of them need to be managed correctly.

Technology obsolescence risk management is the discipline of dealing with all of these components, whether by removing them, or getting more out of them until you're ready to retire them. Let's consider the five common types of legacy IT components and how technology risk managers deal with them:

1 The Zombie

A 'zombie' IT component is one that lingers after death, continuing to stagger onwards long after it should have expired. It's an obvious choice to retire outdated servers and machines that are no longer useful to your organization.

The trick here is in finding this technology when it's all too easy for it to carry on under the radar. Your technical teams may be wasting time and money keeping an old machine running without ever realizing you'd prefer to replace it.

2 The People's Choice

Even when a component is ready to be removed, you may find some of your colleagues don't want to let it go. Not only will they be in the habit of using it, but they may have a very real fear that their expertise with a certain piece of hardware or an operating system is all that offers them job security.

Persuading your colleagues to let go of the status quo requires a comprehensive change-management initiative. That means that people skills are also involved in technology obsolescence management.

3 The House Of Cards

No IT component is an island. Your IT landscape is a network of interconnected servers and machines with streams of data flowing from one to another, into and out of your organization.

Zombie components are actually quite rare, and it's far more common for legacy technology to still be tied into that networked infrastructure. Retiring a component is usually more akin to performing surgery to remove an organ, and you need to know how the machine is connected before you can start.

4 The Lost Dialect

Formatted data isn't always compatible with other applications. This means that data created within a legacy application running on a legacy server might not be able to be read by a modern machine.

Before you can retire a legacy component, you may need to reformat all the data contained within it so that it's compatible with a replacement system. If you have data in a legacy application that only runs on a UNIX system, you best make sure your new Windows 11 machine has something that can read that data before you replace the old server.

5 The Lesser Of Two Evils

Given all of the above challenges, from surgically disconnecting components through to reformatting data and change management, it's not always worthwhile to remove obsolete technology. Sometimes, the monetary value you gain from retiring a server simply isn't worth the expense and effort involved in doing so.

One day, you will need to deal with those outdated components before they break, but while there's life left in them, it may be best to wait until you have the budget and time to replace them. Until you can remove your outdated technology, you might have to learn to live with it.

The "Why" Of Technology Obsolescence Risk Management

With all of the above to consider, it's easy to grasp why technology obsolescence management matters. Technology risk assessment and IT lifecycle management enable you to:

  • find 'zombie' components that can be simply cut from your infrastructure without harm
  • map your IT landscape in order to gain clarity on how to surgically remove obsolete technology
  • conduct change management in order to win stakeholder investment in retiring legacy components
  • convert legacy data into a universal format to ensure it doesn't become siloed in obsolete operating systems
  • monitor the value of retiring a component against the expense, in order to determine when to eliminate it and when to tolerate it
  • manage and minimize the consequences of tolerating legacy technology
  • monitor the lifecycles of your IT components, so that you can work obsolescence management into your strategy

All of this serves to optimize your expenditure on end-of-life or end-of-support components, whether that's through eliminating them or by minimizing the amount you spend on them, and optimizing their utility, until they can be replaced. The money you save can then be invested into high-value, mission-critical hardware.

To do this, however, you need a complete view of:

  • your IT components
  • how they're interconnected
  • the lifecycle of each component
  • how all the data flows through them
  • what applications and business capabilities those components support

You need a system that can track all this data, and more, as well as road mapping your future plans. That's why you need the LeanIX Technology Risk and Compliance platform.

How LeanIX Can Minimize Your Technology Risk

The LeanIX Technology Risk and Compliance product enables you to pro-actively manage the technology obsolescence risk in your IT landscape so you can better inform rationalization, modernization, and budgeting decisions. LeanIX empowers you to:

Create Transparency

Understand your IT landscape, including the end-of-life and end-of-support lifecycles of your technology components. Our lifecycle catalog will automatically display the lifecycle status of logged components and spare you the research effort.

Identify Stakeholders

Track and log who owns the applications and business functions that your IT components support. This enables your change management efforts.

Assess The Impact

By tracking your IT components against the applications and business capabilities they support, you can see what impact obsolescence will have on your wider IT landscape. Ensure you don't discover any surprises.

Visualize Roadmaps

Use our road mapping facility to model what any changes to your IT components and applications will do to your IT landscape, and how much they will cost. Use it as a sandbox to experiment and find your optimal path.

Increase Compliance

Never worry about facing the regulators again. Keeping all your components under support means you can assure compliance across your IT landscape.

How Carrier Saved $1.4M With LeanIX

You don't need to take our word for it, either. Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) multinational, Carrier used the LeanIX platform to identify over 200 technical obsolescence candidates and save USD 1.4 million in support costs over just one year.

To find out more, watch our case study video:

WATCH: Improving Application Portfolio Decision Making at Carrier

The What Of Technology Obsolescence Risk Management

In the next part of this series, we'll deep dive into how you can establish your own technology obsolescence risk management function within your organization. 

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