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Struggling with Legacy Software

If you are like most One-Person Business owners, you are THE ONE when it comes to the day-to-day word processing, page layout, financials, and graphics computer work that all needs to be done. You probably have all your old favorite software that makes your job so much easier. Or, do you? Legacy software, the high tech industry's term for software that has been on a system forever, through many upgrades of hardware, and changes in the business systems and processes, often can be more of a hindrance than a help. And, it can catch you in a backwater with a huge price. How Legacy Software Can Hurt More Than Help Recently I was visiting a colleague who has an enormous amount of source material, reflecting his more than 20 years in his profession. Each topic is carefully copied into its own word processing file.

Then the files are collected into folders, and the folders artfully displayed on his screen. Dozens and dozens of them! The problem? All those individual files. When I asked why so many, he said it makes it easier to find the specific topic he wants. The file names tell him what's what.

When I asked why not put them all in one file and then use a table of contents, he had to admit his legacy word processing software doesn't easily allow him to automatically insert a table of contents into a document. He would have to check when each new topic began, type in the title of the page, and then insert the page number. If he wanted to change the file in any way, he'd have to type up a new table of contents. Instead he spent countless minutes, often hours, finding the topics and information he needed for a paper or a presentation.

The solution? Any of the current "Big Name" word processing software programs have simple instructions for automatically inserting tables of content (tables that can easily be changed if the text of the file is changed in any way). And, almost all of them let you copy in, and/or even open, text files produced by other programs. The price? It comes back to "pay me now or pay me later." Also, this is a serious decision on how you would like to spend your professional time. Keeping the same program you've always used means fewer dollars out of your pocket?and no learning curve time to learn the new software.

Seems like good bet to keep the old favorite. Keeping the legacy system doesn't make it when it comes to the "what's the best use of your time" question. Searching for the right file is a task more appropriate for a clerk or an assistant rather than any professional I've met. It always makes sense to pass off lower payback tasks to lower paid positions. Spending lots of your time searching a hard drive certainly qualifies as lower level work.

It also positions you to be caught in the dreaded "no longer supported" trap. Very Expensive Backwaters With any legacy software there will always become the day when the company's cost-benefit ratio slips to the other side, and the announcement goes out?Our Old Standby will no longer be sold or supported. You are out of luck! Ask me how I know?. Many years ago, I chose a page layout program that only required the use of one disc drive, not the two required by PageMaker. It seemed like a good decision at the time. I saved a couple of hundred dollars by not having to buy a new disc drive.

Fast forward almost 20 years?. I'm still using this legacy page layout program. I have hundreds, probably at least a thousand, formatted pages of program material, in dozens and dozens of files, all with table of contents automatically generated. I can easily develop a new training program, produce handouts for a presentation, workbooks for courses, you name it, in record time by shifting content boxes around, and replacing dates, titles and graphics. It is so easy to use, because I know the program backwards and forward.

The problem? I can't easily get the content out of the program. In addition, the program will no longer be updated for new system software?and the product has been sold to a company in Egypt. There are solutions?all of them extremely expensive?or taking more of my time and energy to do it myself than I would like to even consider doing. The bind? Pay big money to have it done for me, or pay even more to do it myself.

The lesson?migrate away from legacy software earlier rather than later. Stop throwing good money after bad.

Need to get your small business more strategic, organized, automated? Click here => for Pat Wiklund's complimentary introductory course on How to Run a One-Person Business Without It Running You.


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