What do Dogs and Systems Have in Common?
Everybody loves dogs. Most people don’t love systems. So, that can’t be it.
Dogs often show affection when they are fed or played with. Systems, not so much.
When you give a dog a treat, he might play fetch or do a trick. When you give a system a treat, like more memory or a faster drive, it might reward you by crashing.
Dogs are warm and furry. Computer systems are cold and hard.
You might have pictures of your dog on your phone. You definitely do not have a picture of your computer on your phone.
Your dog will never forget you. Your system will randomly delete critical data.
You can relive stress (and the dog) by taking it for a walk. You might relieve stress by flinging your computer down the street.
Your dog senses that you are stressed and tries to comfort you. Your system senses that you are stressed and takes a nap.
You say kind and loving things to your dog, “That’s a gooood boy!!!”. You curse at your computer, “You stupid &*$% son of a *%&%@@!!.”
Your dog waits faithfully at home for your return every day, and greets you like you are the only thing in the world that matters. Your computer system waits for you at work, plotting out how it will ruin your career.
When your dog passes, you are heartbroken as if you’d lost a family member. He could never be replaced. You have a private funeral with family and grieve. When your computer system passes, it’s an opportunity to buy the latest and greatest. The new one will be far superior to the one that just died. You celebrate at a bar with your colleagues.
So, what on earth do dogs and computer systems have in common?
They have the same lifespan. We don’t often think about it, but a system’s lifespan is measured in dog years. An average dog will live 10-13 years. A corporate computer system, especially an on-premises one, will also only live about that long before it has outlived its usefulness. Finance people love old computer systems. Why? Because they are fully depreciated. They aren’t costing the company any money. At least, not in finance’s eyes. But in real life, they are costing a fortune. If a system is fully depreciated, that means it is time to replace it. That’s what depreciation is: the spreading out of cost over a lifespan. You would never think of your dog as “fully depreciated,” would you?
Many companies today run systems that are 15, 20, 25 years or older (that is roughly 93, 140 and 175 years old in dog years, respectively). Some companies, particularly insurance and airlines, have systems over 40 years old (280 dog years). We should all be so lucky to live so long. Systems that are that old require enormous outlays to keep them running. It is why, despite the proliferation of fancy new front-ends, 80% of most IT expenditures go towards maintaining the back-end systems that comprise the backbone of their infrastructure.
And when it comes time to replace the old technology, it is not a carefully planned, strategic event handled in the course of normal business. It is an emergency! An all-hand-on-deck, save-the-company-from-itself, we-are-turning-away-business, the-roof-is-on-fire crisis. When your dog passed, he died peacefully in his sleep at home or was put to sleep by the vet to spare him further agony. When your computer system died, at a time of its own choosing, it cost the company millions in revenue and took half the IT department with it.
So, the moral of this story is to recognize and accept that the lifespan for a computer system is 10-15 years. PLAN for its replacement. Work it into your corporate strategy. When it fully depreciates, that is when the “REPLACE ME” timer has gone off. You’ll know this day has come because it will cause an unexpected blip in your IT budget, the finance people will be happy, and they will be mysteriously friendly to the IT folks. Use that goodwill to get the money for the next upgrade, which, hopefully, will be in the cloud.