News about cutting-edge technology failures or security breaches seems to pop up nearly every day. With so much doom and gloom dominating the headlines, it’s easy to see why CIOs may want to be as conservative as possible, sticking to the older technologies they know to keep their businesses running.
But underinvesting in IT can be a mistake as well. Standing still in today’s dynamic business environment can not only prevent business growth, but it can also put businesses that rely on outdated and sometimes unstable technology in a precarious position.
Peter Muggleston, CIO of Foodstuffs North in New Zealand, recently said, “Spending too little on IT in the digital age is ineffective, maybe borderline irresponsible.”
Dangers of older tech
A company that relies on legacy IT systems simply can’t obtain the agility it needs in today’s business environment. Older technology can prevent professionals from reaping the benefits of powerful new functions like data analysis or collaboration that can help a company run more smoothly or be more competitive. Relying on older technology and infrastructure can actually hold an organization back in several strategic areas. Right now, competitors are likely investigating or investing in new technology to allow them to respond to customers more quickly or strengthen relationships with new potential clients.
And newer technology is also important to those potential clients. A Microsoft study concluded that more than 90% of consumers would consider taking their business elsewhere rather than work with a company that used outdated technology.
Of course, security is the primary danger of using older technology. Outdated software was not designed to be resilient against the types of attacks that are commonplace today. The older the technology, the longer hackers have had to examine it and explore its weaknesses. If CIOs are using technology the manufacturer no longer supports, those vulnerabilities can be even worse.
Employing older technology can also damage a business' bottom line. Employees may not be able to perform their jobs effectively, and customers can quickly become irritated by inferior service. If employees can’t access the information they need quickly and easily, they may turn to their own personal devices. An employee’s personal device might offer higher functionality, but using it could create significant security risks for a company as employees download proprietary company data on portable, personal devices that can be lost, stolen or hacked.
Avoiding IT worker burnout and data loss
Employing older technology can also take a toll on IT staff. As technology ages, staff may need to perform an increasing number of workarounds to ensure everything continues to perform correctly. Such workarounds may slowly rise in number and become increasingly complex, until an IT staff is spending an inordinate amount of time just “keeping the lights on.” Even worse, this practice can have CEOs or board members convinced that new investments in technology are not needed.
Finally, using older technology can result in data loss. If one application is outdated and another is updated, they simply can’t effectively communicate with one another. This can lead to a big crash and potentially lost revenue.
Of course, deciding to invest in new technology is rarely up to the CIO alone, and business partners don't always understand that spending a little more on technology can often mean spending significantly less elsewhere. Therefore, it’s up to CIOs and their teams to convince the rest of the C-suite that the cost of investing in new technology is often less than the risk of not investing in new technology.