In my last article, You Won’t Pay Me to Rescue Your Legacy System, I talked about my original attempt at specializing, and why it didn’t work. I bumbled along until I lucked into a client that helped me understand when Legacy System Rescue becomes an Expensive Problem.
Rather than Legacy System Rescue, I was hired to do “keep the lights on” work. The company had a 3 developer team working on a next generation system, all I had to do was to keep things running as smoothly as possible until they delivered.
The legacy system was buckling under the weight of their current customers. Potential customers were waiting in line to give them money, and had to be turned. Active customers were churning because the platform was buckling.
That’s when I realized – Legacy System Rescue may grudgingly get a single developer, but Scaling gets three developers to scale and one to keep the lights on. Scaling is an expensive problem because it involves churning existing customers and turning away new ones.
Over 10 months I iteratively rescued the legacy system by fixing bugs and removing choke points. After investing over 50 developer months, the next generation system was completely scrapped.
The Lesson – Companies won’t pay to rescue a legacy system, but they’d gladly pay 4x to scaleup and meet demand.