As anyone with a computer knows, the technology inside that computer became obsolete the second it was purchased. Information technologies become dated extremely quickly, and transformations or revolutions in the development of information technologies exceeds anything we have witnessed before. The internal combustion engine was invented hundreds of years ago and, while it has certainly evolved greatly over time, it is still the basic mechanical structure that propels the automobiles billions of people rely on every day. In comparison, the evolution of computing technologies has occurred at the speed of light, with computing power typically doubling in a matter of months, and bulky desktop computers being replaced by laptops and laptops by tablets. The U.S. Government used to measure computing power in terms of “millions of theoretical operations per second.” Today, “millions” is an inadequate measure, so “teraflops” is being increasingly used to reflect the astronomical increase in computing power just over the past 20 years.
The purpose of this background is to illuminate the difficulties facing any company seeking to update its information technologies without also being willing to replace its existing architecture. There are limits to how much existing hardware and software packages can be upgraded; at some point, the entire system has to be replaced. Over time, it becomes disproportionately costly to try to maintain aging – and, again, in IT terms, “aging” might mean one or two years – equipment as the industry supporting it moves on to better things. Replacement parts cease to exist, and technicians become focused on the next generation of systems to come along. Additionally, compatibility with clients and among branches of an organization begins to degrade as systems are replaced piecemeal and technologies continue to advance. In short, a strategic plan for improving an organization’s information technologies that fails to take into account the probable requirement to invest in an entirely new architecture may be doomed to fail. Technologies simply advance too quickly in this area, and “older” systems are not always compatible with newer technologies.