Jun 27, 2012

Hints from the Grey Haired Programmers

I attended a major vendor conference this week.  This particular vendor has a a modern line of current modern products, and also a set of 2nd generation mainframe products.  They’ve wisely bought a series of smaller product companies over the past decade to ensure their future.

But the old product set continues to live on as well.  Yes they’re offering modern interfaces, web service enabling abilities and so forth.  And naturally they’re still investing in the original product set, as a cash cow should be milked as long as possible.

One of the speakers I wanted to hear was speaking in the older product set track, so I made my way to that conference area.  As I entered it a generational change occurred.  EVERYONE, and I mean everyone, was 55 years old or older – with the majority seemingly very very close to retirement.

There’s a clear hint from this sight for those using this product set.  We normally think of end of life for a technology as when either support ends or the supporting platform is discontinued.  But clearly there are a variety of applications and tools that are tremendously outdated but still in operation.

These products continue as companies have millions invested in their use, customizations, development of code, and all the factors that go into making a system of value to a business.

But while these products may continue to live, there does come a true end of life stage.  In the case I’m describing, it clearly seems the knowledge set of this product is literally leaving the industry as the people retire.

While many vendors are quite happy to extend the life of their older and even oldest products forever (for a high support fee), customers would be wise to look that the availability of skilled knowledgeable people to work with them.  When the skilled people are reaching the end of their working life, clearly the products have to be replaced.  Hopefully before skills availability diminishes to a severe level.