Technological replacement: do information system upgrades ever end?

You undoubtedly know about the process of obsolescence, and even planned obsolescence, which mainly affects high-tech products like your smartphone. Constant technological upgrades have the same impact on the world of digital products: websites, e-commerce platforms or applications… there are no exceptions to the rule.

These constant technological upgrades are also dictated by security and governance issues, market imperatives, and new regulatory requirements. As a business, when or how often should you give in to this technological replacement and take measures to make your information system more durable?  

An existing system reflecting outdated needs  

Code, information system, framework, virtual machine, etc. As soon as a technological layer is upgraded to a new version or a new tech hits the market, all your existing resources are progressively downgraded. Over time, products you have developed, even if they continue to be used and maintained, will no longer meet standards, might develop security flaws, or the skills needed to maintain them won’t be available anymore. Your existing system will end up reflecting outdated resources that can no longer meet new needs! 

Of course, digital products continue to emerge based on so-called “old” technologies, but they remain few and far between. Businesses tend to stick with a dynamic technology market with a wide range of solutions attracting developers and technical users, just like they attract end customers with their extra added options.   

Whether you’re a bank, e-commerce business, software publisher, service firm, SME or listed company using digital products, you’re concerned by and even dependent on this technological replacement. But do you need to upgrade at the same pace as new products are released? When does upgrading become necessary? 

Do you need to migrate to newly released solutions? 

In addition to the capabilities mentioned, graded performance, time and computing power optimization, at least three reasons should encourage you to consider replacing all or part of your information system:  

  • Business: business drives technological upgrades to keep businesses competitive, maintain or win market share, develop sales, increase customer loyalty, and more. Digital product users are looking for the best possible experience: there’s no way they’re going to keep browsing on a site that doesn’t load properly, has pages that display too slowly, or that isn’t responsive. These details also contribute to SEO: one of the key “wins” for an effective online business is featuring among the top results! Experience, performance, but also data security: to keep attracting users and boosting user loyalty, your app needs to meet these requirements.  

  • Skills: technological replacement also becomes an HR issue… because it affects employability! Tech staff need to develop their skills and keep up with technological trends, or one day their skills won’t be recognized or required anymore. This also means that the skills needed to maintain “old” technologies grow scarce and, eventually, it will become hard to find the resources required to maintain them… either that or they’ll cost an arm and a leg.    

  • Complexity: managing an outdated technology or building up a hodgepodge of technological layers ultimately makes your IS unnecessarily complicated! So maintenance costs skyrocket, on top of everything getting too complex and technical debt building up… and it becomes easier and cheaper to just draw a line under the whole business and start afresh with a lighter, more modern technology. 

Sometimes, it’s the market that determines when certain software and libraries stops being used and updated: it’s a way of encouraging you to update and adopt the very latest innovative technologies meeting market standards! For example, Microsoft announced the end of support for .NET Framework 4, 4.5 and 4.5.1, even though .NET 6 had only recently been released.  

Going back to this “choice” aspect, upgrading sometimes proves difficult due to the “captive market” created by some publishers. Microsoft and Java products are good examples. The .NET platform provides web applications developed using 100% Microsoft tools (Visual Basic, ASP.NET, MVC, etc.), exclusively hosted on IIS servers… i.e. servers based on the Microsoft environment. And the Java platform? It provides JSP made by SUN on Tomcat servers. These tools allow you to create specific products, but they remain dependent on their publisher’s platform or prove far less flexible if they are hosted elsewhere. Strong tool-platform coupling causes major architectural and hosting issues for users. What choice do you have left? Keeping pace with these publishers, or starting from scratch with other technologies that suit your existing environment and budgets.  

And we mustn’t forget certain natural concerns about the limits of certain technologies. Though new products and services are attractive, they can also cause disruption, like with the cloud. Cloud is the latest trendy architecture, and the legacy-to-cloud migration business is estimated to hit… 623 billion dollars in 2023. DECIDEO says that migrations accelerated during the COVID-19 crisis. The cloud promises attractive costs, simplified maintainability, and even flexibility that on-premise hosting just can’t match. But… Not all organizations have taken the plunge yet, particularly for data security reasons. Those holding out include military ISs and industries involved in sensitive activities. Depending on certain sector- or business-specific issues, you can perfectly well opt not to adopt every new product or service.   


A Forrester survey found that on average IT departments allocate 72% of their budget to managing existing solutions, and only 28% on new projects. Though maintaining an outdated existing solution costs money, don’t forget the cost of upgrading: you’ll have to think about investing either in new skills or upskilling, new infrastructure, an appropriate security strategy, etc. There are multiple costs to take into account and you will definitely need a bigger budget! Upgrading inevitably involves managing technical, functional, organizational, and human requirements, etc. And all these changes have to be coordinated with all your stakeholders to keep both lead times and costs under control. 

Maintaining and/or overhauling existing systems, keeping an eye out for new solutions or upgrading to the latest version all cost money: you need to establish your selection criteria based on (a) your budget, (b) the skills available on the market, (c) regulatory changes and even (d) the imperatives of your business line. You can’t just jump into the technological race at all costs: it never ends. However, this doesn’t mean that you should get completely left behind and leave yourself too much ground to make up. If you are relentlessly driven to upgrading, you above all need to find the right balance. You need to determine the right time, the scope, and the right solution to meet your need… and, yes, even that need will end up changing, too.