Overcoming Application Overload

by Jean Tower

In an article at CIO Insight this week, Overcoming Application Overload, author Dennis McCafferty asks us if we need to revise our policies on keeping software applications. He says that too many companies are keeping applications that are obsolete and no longer return value. The article suggests that tech departments have to retire those applications that do not have a great return on investment.

I understand why it happens that we end up with so much legacy software. Application retirement saves money, but it is also hard work. It is work to find replacement software, transfer data, train users, migrate systems….and users are often the biggest obstacle, in schools and elsewhere.
Do you remember Blockers and Finders by Sunburst? It was an application for elementary school students involving making and testing conjectures. I remember it on an Apple II and the early Macintosh computers (LCII, LCIII…) and when we retired those older computers and replaced them with systems that would no longer run Blockers and Finders I nearly had an uprising of teachers who simply could not imagine moving on from Blockers and Finders.

Years ago, I worked with a High School Department Chair (Foreign Language), who, when the rest of the department was using OS X and Microsoft Office, was still firing up his Apple IIe and ClarisWorks every day because change was simply not in the cards for this teacher.

In the IT world we are all about change. I have a growth mindset and always want to know not just what we can do, but what can we do next. In schools, we are change agents in the IT department. We present a future that “could be” and nudge people along the path to get us there, even the ones who still fondly remember Blockers and Finders, Apple IIes and the Rhinehart (or Palmer) Writing Method. It was about ten years ago that I started upgrading our wireless networks to allow student and teacher devices on the network – the writing on the wall was clear to me. When we had our big show and tell day at the high school, teachers decided they liked the idea of being able to bring their own laptops in, but they were not in favor of supervising students on their own laptops, and it was a number of years before we could implement that change.

The best IT leaders embrace change (Be the Buffalo) but recognize that many of their colleagues do not. I think that we make the most progress when we anticipate the nay-sayers, the ones who want to hold onto Blockers and Finders forever, and listen to and reassure them that we will help them make the journey with us.

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