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Legacy Systems vs the Kerth Prime Directive

July 14, 2021

Regardless of what we discover, we understand and truly believe that everyone did the best job they could, given what they knew at the time, their skills and abilities, the resources available, and the situation at hand.

Kerth Prime Directive

Calling an existing system “legacy” is an interesting use of the word. In most usages, “Legacy” refers to a body of work or achievements that the legacee would be proud to own. In systems parlance, however, it takes on a definite whiff of dysfunction, tribulation  and generally ‘stuff we would be better off without’.

I was pulled up by one of my colleagues, while I was railling bitterly against some aspect of a legacy system (that I had helped put in place!). They said – in jest ! – that I should take a time machine trip back twelve years and knock some sense into myself…

It led me to think that it was a similar thought to the Kerth Prime Directive – one of the most helpful ways of thinking in any organisation. My colleagues’ point was a good one – the system that was put in place was miles better than the existing one at that time. The fact that some of the design decisions could have been better was not disputed; however – the damn thing works.

In fact, legacy systems in general, are working right now. That actually can’t be said for the majority of the conceptual awesomeness that lies inside project plans worldwide. These seeds of ideas are all potential, no more. Perhaps some of them will get greenlighted – figures vary on this but maybe one in three will start? 

Of these started “fixes” to legacy systems, more than half will not ever go live. The remaining ones that struggle into being, may one day hope for the ultimate legacy – to be called a “legacy system”.

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