Old Tech, New Tricks

Ensuring continuity in a shrinking knowledge pool

Keeping pace with change

This week, a German railways job post asked for someone familiar with Windows 3.11, a 30-year-old operating system. 30-years in the tech world is like going back into the Bronze Age for the rest of us.

Needless to say, v3.11 mastery isn’t a common skill set these days.

But why not upgrade to Windows 11, you might ask?

Because legacy systems like this often get baked in. They can’t be removed without severe disruption, and don’t go away overnight just because they are outdated. 

And they often keep working. Until they don’t.

This ‘technical debt’ will inevitably cause a headache one day.

The cost of nostalgia

The reality for many organizations is that even if they want to upgrade, it’s not financially viable. 

They cannot afford to be constantly swapping out for the latest version or model.

But finding experts in older systems will naturally get harder over time; they simply don’t attract people wanting to learn them.

Why learn something that is essentially obsolete, and won’t look good on the CV? MS-DOS experience hardly pops off the page.

Where to look?

Another problem is exactly where to look for legacy-trained talent.

Previously, if a business opened in a location, local people would work there, and the knowledge base would grow naturally.

This tradition sadly no longer exists. 

Factories close, children no longer follow in the family business, and a bloodline of technology know-how ceases.

Solving niche problems globally 

Luckily, businesses can use the global marketplace to plug these widening knowledge gaps. By leveraging a global talent pool, they can find the precise skills needed no matter where they are in the world.

Suddenly, with a potential talent pool of 8 billion people, finding the right knowledge became a whole lot easier (and cheaper).

Solving niche problems globally

Hiring to train, training to hire

But knowledge doesn’t start and stop with the individual.

By embracing the global talent pool, businesses have the opportunity to hire trainers, bringing their new hires up to speed on legacy systems and bringing knowledge back in-house.

Given the younger workforce’s penchant for the latest tech, the allure of mastering mid-90s technology might seem low. 

Having this in-house knowledge being passed on is vital, even as the world moves on.

Looking forward whilst looking back

It’s time to rethink how we approach legacy systems in the era of digital transformation. They have the potential to stick around far longer than ‘the market’ might expect, and there needs to be a support structure in place to keep them running.

Finding reliable workers who can help do this is vital to the survival of any organization which uses them, to prevent an unnecessary and costly cycle of constant upgrading.

Don’t let your past hold your future hostage.

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About Derek Gallimore

Derek Gallimore has been in business for 20 years, outsourcing for over eight years, and has been living in Manila (the heart of global outsourcing) since 2014. Derek is the founder and CEO of Outsource Accelerator, and is regarded as a leading expert on all things outsourcing.