How does ‘David Moyes Syndrome’ relate to ‘legacy’ IT systems?

Put simply, David Moyes Syndrome is my attempt to put a name to the almost pathological urge that affects so many Premier league football clubs in a state of transition, namely the temptation to hit the panic button rather than take a more measured, strategic approach. The comparison stacks up, so bear with me…

Because clearly, Manchester United Football Club are a big business and it has been remarked that they are acting like any other organization with a strategic issue – although most companies rarely have to worry about losing to Olympiakos. (But then neither do many football clubs, for that matter.)

Initially, at least, the company are seeing immediate benefits for acting boldly. The club is a corporation where fans and shareholders alike demand sustained success. When that doesn’t happen quickly enough – and market share becomes eroded by rivals – they tend to act swiftly.

The same is true of banks and other companies with large IT estates. When their systems are perceived as lagging behind the competition, analysts and investors start asking some pretty fundamental questions. The crux is this: whether to scrap what is there and start again in the hope that the instant win keeps delivering, or choose a less traumatic, more strategic path.

For clubs like Manchester United, the landscape has been skewed by the arrival of unforeseen elements that could happen in any vertical. The wealthy backers of Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City  and Liverpool are raising the stakes and Manchester United feel compelled to respond. Where is their red-hot striker? Their resolute defence? More importantly, it seems, is their trophy magnet of a manager?

Likewise, to stretch the analogy, the presence of game-changing elements in the IT space is forcing businesses with older, more established applications and legacy systems to react to PayPal, eBay, Facebook, and Amazon. Customers are demanding a life online. They want to be mobile with constant connections to everything, everywhere – and that’s the context in which every company must now operate.

The arrival of a marketplace-distorting factor could happen anywhere, forcing the organization to raise their game in order to stay competitive. Indeed, some bank customers already use Facebook to make payments. So what can organizations do to avoid David Moyes Syndrome? Let’s look at the two options under consideration at United – revamp, or rebuild.


In footballing parlance, this is all about a new manager making sweeping changes to his playing staff. Out go X, Y and Z and here come 1, 2 and 3. A massive rip and replace IT project of this nature will arrive pre-loaded with large amounts of risk. It might work. It may not. You won’t know until it’s too late to do anything about it. Taxi for Mr Moyes.


But just like Manchester United, any organisation will have unique assets they risk losing by taking such a drastic step. Your company’s heritage is tied up in these systems. Lose them, and you risk some of your identity too. Your intellectual property is at risk. Isn’t it much better to make more of what you have? Adapt how you deploy your assets and introduce a couple of game-changers instead?

There are certain precautions available to mitigate some of this risk, at least. Just as the new United manager is likely to do, analysing what you have is as important as understanding the complexities you will need to overcome with these resources. So build your requirements from there and ensure everyone involved in the business has complete visibility of them. Get it right and you reduce the time to market significantly, perhaps gaining a march on the competition.

Micro Focus: game-changing software

Micro Focus understands the problem of making big moves in a risk-averse world. To us, modernization beats destabilization. The Micro Focus Enterprise product set tackles the application innovation modernization needs of IBM mainframe development and delivery teams. Our enterprise application knowledge, development, test and workload deployment tools significantly improve the efficiency of business application delivery, enabling IT leaders to transform their zEnterprise environment.

One way or another we’re all in a results business, so if you’re looking to stay in the race for the title, remember that before you succumb to David Moyes Syndrome, there are alternatives. Micro Focus development tools enable you to get more from your squad and deliver better results faster, without messing with the heritage of your organization. They also cost a lot less than paying off your ex-manager.



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