When to Throw Up the Stop Sign

Stop gap measures are short term actions taken to cross a gap, to lurch through a specific situation until normal or better conditions are reached. Stop gap measures are often done on the expectation of a near term return to the old normal. Yet there are risks and costs often forgotten in the rush to keep throwing out one more rope to reach the other side. There are times to throw up a stop sign and put a stop to stop gap measures.

* Stop gap measures can be short term low cost measures to avoid a big expense. Yet stop gap measures can be costly by keeping obsolete systems running and avoiding a transition that is necessary. Review the cost of small fixes over the recent past and into the short term future. If these continual costs added up make the large expense (new server hardware, new computer, updated software licenses) a reasonable ROI, go and make the change.

Example: Obsolete and specialized tools are more expensive to maintain than using what everyone else is using. The inability to outsource support or hire someone straight out of school necessitates using more expensive experts or pulling in those on retirement back in on costly contract rates.

* Endless short term fixes are often compared to the cost of doing nothing with an obsolete system. The sunk cost is often considered more important than the sometimes lesser cost of starting on a new and supported application. Run the numbers without factoring in the sunk costs. If you wouldn’t keep the current system going due to its current heavy financial or support load, stop the short term fixes and make the long term change.

Example: The cost of many small, customized and moderately-priced security patches and fixes on a sun-setting system can end up costing more over a few years than the upgrade would have cost.

* Sometimes waiting and delaying large expenses saves money. Delaying can also add to costs. Stop gap measures to avoid the large cost of a migration often ignore the cost that system migrations become more expensive as more files, data vaults, user accounts and roles are added to a legacy system. Review the growing cost of migration and change due to the foot-dragging on legacy systems.

Example: Keeping an existing data management tool running increases the amount of data that must be migrated, often adding to the cost when it is finally migrated.