How to tell when your software needs more than a quick fix.
Say you’ve got an old car. It runs, gets you from point A to point B, but you can tell something’s wrong. It isn’t running like it used to. It’s becoming unreliable. You want it fixed, but you also know (but may not be willing to admit) that it might be time for something altogether new.

We encounter that situation with customers all the time. They come to us with an old platform or software system. They know there’s a problem — that’s why they came to us — but they aren’t sure just how severe. And they want to know: Can it be saved, or should it be scrapped?

Every system is different, and we would never make a diagnosis without taking an in-depth look under the hood. But over the course of our engagements with multiple clients, we’ve found a few warning signs that, more often than not, are prime indicators that you’re in need of a rebuild.

Before we outline each of those warning signs, we need to clarify that a rebuild is not a bad thing.

In fact, in almost every instance, a rebuild can save you much more money than plugging away on a buggy, archaic and brittle system, loaded with technical debt. Yes, you have to lay out the investment up front, but in the process, you create a faster, more efficient and more customer-friendly platform that will allow you to add new products, scale your business and attract new clients.

We’ll delve into the rebuild process more in our next post. In the meantime, here are the warning signs of a system that’s beyond repair:

Warning sign: Your system is old.

If it’s been five or six years since your original system was built, it may be time for a rebuild.

There are cases in which companies knocked it out of the park, right from the start, building a streamlined, effective platform that nails the company’s value proposition perfectly. But those are few and far between.

The fact is, businesses and product/market fit evolve over time, and what worked in the early days may not work now. You’ve likely already iterated, added new features, tried things on for size. And in the process your code base has become jam-packed with things you no longer need.

If that’s the case, it may be time for an upgrade.

Warning sign: Your code base is huge.

If you have a large code base and limited features, that’s generally not a good sign.

Your goal should be a smaller code base with a lot of features. That means you’ve been efficient with your language, thoughtful. You’re making every line of code count, and that leaves room for more features down the road.

We worked with a client recently on a total rebuild. When we launched the system, the new code base was 10 percent of the size of the original platform — with much more functionality. Now that company is moving forward with a lean and solid foundation on which to build.

Warning sign: You have a revolving door of developers.

If you’ve brought in multiple developers and none of them have worked out — even the good ones who you wanted to stick around — chances are, it’s not the developers that are the problem.

Good developers hate working on bad code because it’s akin to bailing out a sinking ship: You’re going to work hard, but in the end, you’ll have nothing to show for it. All you’ve done is prolong the inevitable.

Consider that when you start to realize you can’t hold on to good tech talent. The problem could very well be a code base that’s beyond repair.

Warning sign: Your system crashes — a lot.

This may seem obvious, but many entrepreneurs and business owners hold out hope that the crashes all stem from small, easily fixable problems. If they could just make a few tweaks, they’ll be back on solid, reliable ground. Right?

Unfortunately, that’s rarely, if ever, the case. To go back to the analogy we started with, it’s like having a car that breaks down all the time and spending thousands of dollars on incremental repairs, when really you would be better off buying a new car.

It’s tempting to think that each crash is just a bump in the road, but when it happens a lot, it’s usually a symptom of a bigger, more systemic problem — one that needs a bigger and more intentional fix.

Warning sign: You just know.

For the most part with our clients, our recommendation for a rebuild rarely comes as a total shock. While they may have been in denial, for fear of development costs and the rebuild process itself, they usually know deep down that a few quick fixes aren’t going to cut it.

That, in and of itself, is a sign: Your gut is telling you something, so listen to it. You may not have the technical background to know exactly what the solution entails, but you know your business enough to identify that there’s a bigger problem to be solved.

The good news: You don’t have to go it alone. When we sit down with our clients, we walk through all the available options, along with a complete list of pros and cons, and help you find the best choice for the future of your business.

A rebuild may be the last thing you want, but it may be just the thing you need.