Why Future-Proofing Your Software is Not What You Think!

These days, we are urged to “future-proof” almost everything. We are blitzed with suggestions for future-proofing our organizations, our PCs, our TVs, our diets and practically everything in between.  

It’s everywhere and it’s giving future-proofing a bad name! 

The reason it’s so fascinating, of course, is because the future is not easy to predict!  We want to know, now more than ever, because we all need a little more certainty in our lives after two years of pandemic and all that it has done to us and our businesses.  

Future-proofing is difficult enough when we are dealing with tangible objects like a TV set, and so it’s hardly surprising that attempting to future-proof software is doubly difficult.  In this article, we want to clear some of the fog and define what we really mean by future-proofing systems, why it’s important, and even possible, practical and goal-worthy – especially for publishers! 

Everything Evolves

Everything constantly evolves. It’s never over! Darwin said it and we believe it – most of us anyway. If you need proof of it in the publishing business, think back a few years.  Now think Big Data, cloud computing, artificial intelligence, Amazon, pandemic, sustainability, direct-to-consumer, the list goes on and on. Were any of these few examples top of mind just a few years ago? Of course not, and so most publishers were blind-sided when each one barged in and made us wish for a better crystal ball! Publishers are the curators of our culture, and even they did not see these things coming. It would have been a lot easier if we could have been prepared, in our businesses, and in our systems. 

So future-proofing systems is an important concept. The question is how do you achieve it? Here’s the point. If you want to avoid your information systems becoming “legacy software” all too quickly, there are specific things you can do, and they are more to do with platform than just software. 

Legacy Software

So, what do we mean by “legacy software”, because nobody deliberately designs legacy software, it unfortunately just gets that way. Legacy solutions begin to fail when the variety of the stored data begins to increase. Legacy systems often run on-premise and were originally designed to address specific operational needs that tend to silo data. These silos are difficult to integrate into the newer systems that embrace data from many sources (both internal and external), and are often poorly supported because the skilled resources are no longer available.  Legacy systems often accumulate in organizations that have no standard approach to technology and don’t use a single technology platform.  And a single technology platform will always alleviate that problem by providing a common repository for data, workflows, and BI tools for the greater good of the whole user community.  

Publishers are particularly vulnerable to this problem because we are constantly buying, selling and processing packets of high-value information from various sources, often over the internet.

Operating in the Cloud

So, the first key recommendation for future proofing your information platform is to operate in the CLOUDThe reason is simple. As an on-demand, self-service environment, cloud is now essential to achieving end-to-end digital transformation, to help publishers reinvent and to take advantage of all the data and applications that are simply not practical in-house, given the limitations of in-house capacity and technical skills. The cloud is simply better at storing and analyzing masses of data from many potential sources, in various formats, that demand processing scale and flexibility. Without the computing power of the cloud, publishers often can’t develop the information that leads to more insightful business decisions. This is especially true when information needs change, as is constantly the case in publishing. Large cloud providers manage infrastructure and applications using highly skilled resources. They help users scale up (and down) with ease and offer a much higher level of data security, disaster recovery and ease of upgrade than can be typically provided by on-premise operations.  

The Value of Scale

On the subject of scale, here is the second recommendation for future-proofing your information systems. Here we mean the scale of operations of your platform and software suppliers. Take Microsoft for example. When a team of Danish developers created the financial application that became Microsoft Navision, it was in the age of floppy disks and monitors the size of small refrigerators. As monitors and storage media evolved, so did the performance expectations for the software. This was the time when we all realized that accounting software should be integrated into what we now call ERP systems. When Microsoft acquired the Danish company in 2002, Navision became part of the Microsoft ecosystem and was developed over time into MS Dynamics and Dynamics 365 Business Central. Microsoft realized that it was essential that data could be seamlessly exchanged within and between companies, with robust integration capabilities to help create and implement new business models and processes as needs developed.   

This is precisely why today, Microsoft’s Dynamics 365 Business Central software can integrate a variety of automation and AI tools that we could not envisage just a few years ago. Examples include the integration to Shopify, a website creation tool that has the largest e-commerce platform market share in the US. It provides the base for publishers to develop their own D2C channel. Other examples include the integration of Print-on-Demand capabilities or adding new KPIs to track the use of sustainably manufactured paper. Microsoft’s goal, then and now, was to make software updates as easy as it is with smartphone apps, and to add new services and apps when needed. This capability allows Microsoft Partners like knk Software to deploy new releases that incorporate new technology from both parties, so users of current releases can benefit quickly from new features, avoiding obsolescence now and into the future. 

It’s difficult to do all that without scale – scale of the software development budget of Microsoft, scale of the skilled resources they can apply to new business requirements, and also the world-wide scale of Microsoft’s cloud services, Azure. That scale allows Azure to offer a superior and consistent level of cloud service delivery all over the world. It’s about having a niched software partner like knk, who are 100% focused on publishing, who focus their efforts on keeping publishing industry applications relevant and up to date, while Microsoft is focused on new capabilities that apply to all industries. The combination provides a much lower risk of software and platform obsolescence and a commensurately higher chance of sustainable, continuous and valuable applications to the publisher. 

Summary

No one can predict the future with any degree of certainty, and future-proofing software certainly falls in that category. Our conclusion is that if publishers deploy a software solution that offers scale, in both the product development budget, and is implemented using a global open-platformed cloud service provider, then they don’t NEED to be concerned about future-proofing software. It’s done for you by your platform providers! 

One of the roots of “legacy software” is that it is often dependent on the hardware or operating system on which it was developed and deployed. In some cases, those vendors are no longer supporting those platforms, and no longer filling open slots with skilled resources, and so the users’ ability to get support, upgrade and stay current is severely limited. In addition, trying to develop your own software and build in features and capabilities that are not yet required but “might” happen soon, is not the answer either.  The same applies to guessing which technologies will prevail. Go with established leaders with scale. 

It’s all about reducing RISK…risk of obsolescence, risk of inaccessibility to computing power for newer applications that provide insight, and availability of skilled resource both in development, operations and support. All those things contribute to lowering risk and thus provide a better chance of future-proofing your information systems. It’s not about future-proofing your software. It’s about future-proofing your platform. 

Microsoft and knk Software (a 7-time Gold Certified Microsoft Partner) are committed to creating an open platform to help our customers find the right solutions to accelerate and maintain their digital transformation. Innovation begins with data-fueled insights, and more connected operations will allow publishers that use the knkPublishing platform to better meet rapidly changing industry demands. With Microsoft continuing to invest in generic supply chain and financial features, it allows knk Software to focus our development dollars on the specific needs of the publishing and media industries, to jointly provide a future-proofed platform on which to build information systems in the age of Big Data. 

 

Photo by Ales Nesetril on Unsplash