The PSC news-insights: entry

03/11/2021
Digital, Insights

Is legacy tech always bad? 

Our digital team finds out from the experts whether legacy tech is something we should be worried about and what we can do to make sure we manage it properly…

Over the last two months, our digital team has spoken to rocket engineers, Gov Tech experts, academics, authors and technical architects to understand the true role of legacy tech in our lives and whether we should be concerned about it in the future.

Here, the digital team - Antonio, Phil, Katie and Fiona – share some of their biggest lessons from their mini-series on The PSC in Conversation…

Is legacy tech always bad? 

Listen to our Living with Legacy podcast series  on Apple Podcasts and Spotify

In case you don't have time to listen to the interviews, here is our rundown of the five biggest things you need to know about legacy tech: 

 

  1. All technology will be legacy tech

Legacy tech isn’t inherently bad. Even the most premium technology today will one day be legacy as times change and the way that people use technology shifts, Derek Alton told us.

Marianne Bellotti shared a pearl of wisdom that stuck with us too: Acknowledge that mistakes will happen with tech, whether it’s legacy or the latest tech, and prepare for that. If we ensure that we’re aware of the fallibility of technology, particularly legacy tech, we are much safer relying on it.

 

  1. It’s the people behind the tech that makes it good or bad

This brings us neatly onto our next biggest lesson – the threat of legacy tech depends on whether the people managing the tech are making good or bad decisions.

Tanya Filer nicely explained that when it comes to GovTech – but we also think this applies more broadly – our attitudes to technology can be the problem itself. Whether you call it techno-optimism or solutionism, no tech offers a silver bullet, and it can be dangerous to think that it does.

As Robert Hettrick mentioned, we saw during the Post Office Scandal that a lack of scrutiny of technology can have a huge human impact, so this must be avoided.

 

  1. Managing legacy tech is a universal challenge – not just an affliction of the public sector

Our interview with Archana Beeram about the UK and US healthcare systems gave us a real insight into how both systems face their own legacy tech issues. While many may perceive The NHS as a behemoth of legacy tech, our conversation revealed that private healthcare faces the same challenges in joining up the dots between different legacy systems.

Rob Hettrick and Emily Mills also showed how much managing legacy tech is a universal challenge across all industries from aerospace to banking.

 

  1. Acknowledge the life span and flaws of tech

Marianne Bellotti reminded us to take all tech with a pinch of salt. We often think of new technology as a linear march of progress and that everything is always improving. Instead, we could think about new technology as the swing of a pendulum or a trend. This way we make sure that we’re acknowledging flaws and remain attuned to tech’s fallibility.

If we acknowledge the life span of technology, we can also better plan for problems with legacy tech. As hardware and software matures as an industry, perhaps we’ll see future planning similar to other industries such as Real Estate. In the same way that we know a boiler needs to be replaced in, say, ten years, we also know that most tech has a lifespan on 7-10 years. Whole life planning could be the best way to get the most out of the tech that we have.

 

       5. There’s a lot to be hopeful about

There is certainly a lot of be wary of with how we manage legacy technology. Robert Hettrick reminded us that some of our current solutions to legacy tech can put a plaster on deeper problems. There’s also still a cyber security risk to legacy systems in the public and private sectors across the world.

However, our conversations with Emily Mills and Dr Adam Baker about the space industry made us feel particularly hopeful about our ability to effectively manage legacy tech in the future. From extending satellite life spans to using new technology to help manage older technology (such as tracking legacy satellites that could pose a risk to new satellites) - it seemed positive and hopeful that so many of the best and brightest technology experts were interested in the challenge of managing legacy technology.

 

We hope you enjoyed this series as much as we did, and we’re hugely grateful to all of our guests who joined us! Please do go back and listen to the episodes to hear deeper analysis from the experts themselves. Available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify

 

Please let us know if there are any other digi topics you’d like to see a podcast on, or whether you or someone you know might make like to feature on our podcast! We’d love to hear from you at hello@thepsc.co.uk

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