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Which IT project comes first – Legacy or Sexy?

If you’re organization is like most, you’ve got a lot of legacy IT systems.   Most of those legacy systems require a lot of maintenance. Most of those legacy systems need updates.

In addition, you’re organization has a ton of ‘sexy’ projects that need to get done. Projects like integration of social platforms.  Collaboration tools.  New marketing technology platforms. Etc. Etc.

But…you’ve got a limited budget,  limited workforce and, at times, limited visibility by senior leadership into what projects need to get done.

In addition, you’ve got a lot of buzzwords out there driving a lot of the thinking within the leadership of the organization.  Social.  Enterprise 2.0.  Web 3.0. Cloud.  Digital this…and digital that.

So…which project comes first?  Legacy or Sexy?

The Legacy Projects

Legacy systems can almost make a case for themselves.  I mean…their called ‘legacy’ for a reason, right?

Legacy systems are those that have been around for a while….maybe a year or maybe 20 years.  Perhaps you’ve got a mainframe system running your Financial system that needs an update.  Or…maybe you’ve got a server farm running a poorly architected data system.

Whatever your definition of ‘legacy system’ is,  you’ve got them and many of them need to be updated and/or replaced.

The Sexy Projects

Sexy systems are those that are new and in the forefront of your top management teams’ minds.  Their the Enterprise 2.0 platforms.  The centralized content management system.  Social Network systems.

These systems are those that are driven, at first, by the buzzwords of the day.  Of course, a good CIO and/or IT team will push the buzzwords away and make these sexy systems fit into, and drive value for, the organization.

Whatever your definition of ‘sexy’ is you’ve got many of these types projects on your plate and many more coming down the road.

How do you decide?

Well…unfortunately, you probably don’t decide…at least not alone. Most organizations have a lot of people involved in project selections for IT.  Marketing has a ton of technology projects as does HR, Finance and Sales.

Most organizations have a different approach to selecting those projects that will be funded. In many organizations, a selection process is followed to make sure that the right projects get funded. That selection process varies by company but at its core, the process selects (or should select) those projects that fit with the organization’s strategic goals for the coming year(s).

It doesn’t matter how your organization selects project to fund; just understand what that process is.

Once you understand that process, you can help the people involved in that process to understand what the important projects are.  You can help them understand the legacy vs sexy debate.

But first…you’ve got to understand that debate yourself. Many times…its the legacy project that brings the most long term value to the organization, but its the sexy projects that get the funding.

If the legacy projects are the most important to your business, make sure everyone knows why.  And vice versa for the sexy projects.

What’s more important to your company for the next year?  The sexy project…or the legacy project? Or both?

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Which IT project comes first – Legacy or Sexy?


[…] on the subject of of modernizing applications and infrastructure, in a few posts in the past (see here and here).  In my consulting efforts, I’ve run across many CIO’s and IT professionals […]

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