Legacy systems are outdated ideas or processes that don’t fit in the current world. As an example, I have a Spanish friend whose superstition meant that the lighting of three cigarettes with a single match was bad luck. When he raised this at a bar, he would blow out the match by the second cigarette. I was curious as to the origin. Then I thought of the Spanish Civil for of the 1930’s. This was the era of sharp shooters and trenches. When one lights the first cigarette, the enemy would spot the enemy. And when the second cigarette was lighted with the same match, that meant that the sharp shooter took aim. By the time a third cigarette is lighted with the single match, the sharp shooter pulls the trigger. That third cigarette holder is now dead. Of course, that is bad luck to be the last beneficiary of the match. Yet, my Spanish friend still applied this outdated superstition in the 21st century in a bar.
Nothing is so frustrating than facing legacy systems in a company as well. Every time I encounter a new business environment, I ask why does one follow the old procedure? PDf files can replace paper. Electronic files can be managed more efficiently than paper ones. But there are times when one suggests migrating to PDFs, there is a some resistance by the established management team.
Then there are the low risk managers who stick to legacy systems. I worked with a lawyer who was previously employed at the FCC as a “career” employee, one of many federal governmental divisions. We had to make changes to an extensive contract that would incur $50k daily savings for the company. However, this lawyer was groomed in the federal government where speed was not critical. In fact, the longer he stretched out the project, the more he felt that his job was secure. Economic costs were meaningless to him. Everything he did was self serving since in the Federal government world one could not risk being outdated or useless. And many of those skills were not transferable to the private sector. Unfortunately for him, what works in the government does not in the private sector. Later on, he returned to public service.
So everytime I hear about some old idea or process, I think about the Spanish Civil War and the 3 cigarette rule. Time changes many things, including misconceptions. And then one must adapt to the new environment.