An Indirect Approach to Tackling Legacy IT Problems

I got a quick lesson on the difficulty of fixing legacy IT management problems when I decided to start my own company.

I got a quick lesson on the difficulty of fixing legacy IT management problems when I decided to start my own company. I worked in the IT automation space for six years and decided to quit my job at a large software vendor to try to bring a new product to market.  Around that time, I had read an excerpt from an article by Gartner analyst on the problem of managing the lifecycle and security of operations related scripts in IT (think unix shell more than the Hollywood variety). I liked that problem and understood it from my last gig. Automation tools had not replaced the need for and use of scripting. There aren’t a lot of controls in place and some significant security exposure. Along with my business partner, I crafted the specifications for a lifecycle management application for IT Operations scripts.

I’m a marketing guy and I knew I really needed customer validation even though all I could think is that this was one problem that operations staff would definitely want to cross off the list. I called one of my contacts who had recently taken the VP of IT Operations role at a big Canadian retail outlet. I knew he loved automation problems and would give me the straight story on my product idea.

After I explained the concept, he gave me what was one of the better pieces of insight into the problem of repairing legacy issues in IT.  “In a given year a minimum of 80 per cent of my costs are related to keeping the lights on. I have no budget to address Op/Ex related issues and if you want to show me how you can fix legacy problems, you better have a pretty air tight case on ROI.”

And therein lies the legacy justification problem. Even if you can pull together a statistically significant sampling of customers and show how much money can be saved, you’re still bound by the fact that companies don’t generally have the time or resources to deal with current problems until they’re BIG problems. For their shop, and most others I know of, if you want to position a solution that kicks out another vendor’s product or replaces manual processes, you’re probably going to need the customer to come to you – with budget and a clear understanding of how their current approach is broken. I don’t think that’s just a problem for a software vendor like BlueCat, I think it’s also a problem for our customers trying to advocate for change inside their organizations. There’s little time to deal with legacy until legacy actually impacts the 20 per cent of the budget actually going towards new projects.

Are legacy problems worthwhile for vendors?  The answer is yes, but there is a different approach to addressing them that makes a lot more sense than trying to squeeze new funding out of an already impaired IT budget. In the case of my contact, 20 per cent of their budget was available for capital expenditures. He continued, “If you can show me how you can help me land my current IT projects on time and on budget and reduce my risk going forward, then we have something to talk about. I may not get fired for inefficiencies in how we do things today, but my job is on the line for the new projects that the business clearly cares about.”

The answer lies in the new initiatives in IT and it is why so many vendors try desperately to associate themselves with the ‘top 10 CIO problems’ of the day. Attach to those initiatives and resolve a problem that’s going to put those projects at risk and you have a win-win.  To that end, Runbook Automation (which had awesome potential to fix legacy) didn’t take off until there was a new project problem to deal with: Automating the deployment and management of virtual servers.

After spending a couple of weeks at BlueCat, I can already see the link here. This technology stack has immense value and can help companies fix painful operational inefficiencies. If BlueCat customers know where the legacy problems are, and are ready to fix them, there is a lot of ROI potential. But new projects are where the action is, and maybe the best way to kill two birds with one cat (apologies to bird lovers).

We’re often brought in to add value to the new projects. ‘BYOD’ and ‘Mobile Security’ are a couple of great examples. IPAM helps companies manage the provisioning and use of IP addresses that are attached to critical new IT projects and allows for vast reductions in the associated SLAs for provisioning new servers, mobile phones, and desktops.

So IPAM helps make new IT projects successful. Introducing IPAM alongside strategic initiatives helps companies best manage that 20 per cent discretionary budget, while also providing the platform to fix legacy Address Management processes and infrastructure.


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