7 Legacy Software NIGHTMARE Stories

As a software consultancy, we are not the cheapest option out there. Companies don’t usually hire us for fun. Usually, there’s something really bad going on that they need fixed… Here are some stories about legacy software, that might be funny to read, but are real scenarios and were not funny to live through. We were called in to fix them.

The Server in the Closet

Imagine a multi-million dollar company that is the critical link in the success of huge construction projects. Everyone that works there is an expert in what they do. Except the IT guy. He decided it would be a good idea to build his own server, and host all of the company’s mission-critical applications on it. And then, for security, put this critical machine in the closet where no one would damage it. And for extra safety, put some red tape on it with black marker reading “DO NOT SHUT OFF”. We redesigned their legacy software applications in a cloud-based architecture. And then shut the server off.

Personal backups

Data is critical, everyone knows that. There’s an adage “Put all your eggs in one basket and guard it with your life.” That’s what one company was doing with their critical software backups. They had a pretty good process of backing up their mission critical servers every couple of days. Except that they would back them up to an external hard drive, and then place that hard drive in a fireproof safe at one of the employees homes. I mean, it does sound pretty secure, but seems like people could use their time and stress better. We rebuilt their data systems including automating their backup process to Amazon S3, and everyone is sleeping much better.

Black Orders

Some applications get really slow. In this story, data piled up, initial software design was questionable, and a couple few years later it’s taking 12 seconds to load the internal product order page. It got so long, the customer service operator would forget if he’d already clicked the “order” button and would click it again. NOOOOOOO! This would create a duplicate order that really messed things up (accounting, order management, billing, everything else). The customer service rep would know this because back on the order list page, the duplicate order would show up as a back line. Why? I don’t know. We redesigned and rebuilt the legacy e-commerce system. It’s 100+ times faster now, and there’s no more black orders.

The Psychic Server

It was like a curse. Every time the company landed a big project, the server would fall over (not literally, it would just stop working). The server would work swimmingly for months, and then new project, bang, server is down. It’s like the legacy software hated them. With excellent customer service and account management, the company kept growing, but lived in constant fear of new customers. We discovered the root causes, rebuilt their application and moved them to AWS Elastic Beanstalk. The applications have never been more stable.

Customer Repelling Portal

Providing customers direct access to the value your company provides is a great way to lower your costs and increase customer engagement. But not always. In this case, the project fell to a junior developer with little experience in customer portals. While doing her best, the end result was, well, confusing and ugly. It literally repelled customers. We redesigned the portal, turning into a critical (supportive) element of the sales process.

The Daily Crash

Excel is an amazing tool. Some companies build their internal workflows around it, like the company in this story. Excel worked great until the data sets got too large. Then Excel started breaking. Almost every day. The data models had become legacy software. Imagine being on a deadline, your models are loaded up into excel, you’re looking through the analysis, then crap, the mouse stops moving. Crap, I can’t change applications. Crap, excel broke again. I hope the last autosave isn’t corrupted. Crap, I’ll just start over… We built their analysis tools into a proper database driven web application. People go home on time now.

14 Email Folder Project Management System

People do their best with what they know. In this case, they knew Microsoft Outlook. It turns out you can use Microsoft Outlook as a project management tool! You just create an email folder for every step of the process and move the customer’s email conversation through the folders to keep track of things. And maybe throw a shared drive in there for documents related to the conversation. And color coded Outlook appointments to track critical events. And templated notes to document important requirements. To be honest, it’s not that this approach didn’t work, it’s that only one person in the company could use it. We implemented the processes into an easy to use web application, that anyone, even the CEO, can use.   Any of these sound familiar? Do you have a story like these? Drop us a line, we can help.