Listening to an insurance executive talk about replacing an old mainframe-based administration system is a lot like listening to a farmer talk about getting rid of an old tractor.It still pulls a heavy load, but competing farms-especially the larger ones-are bringing in faster models with advanced features that enable them to produce higher yields more efficiently. But these new tractors cost a lot of money and change the way work is done on the farm. How can a farmer afford the new equipment, learn how to use it, modify the work processes, and get all the crops sown and harvested on nature's strict schedule?

No doubt about it: Replacing an old "work horse" is expensive, time-consuming-and risky-for a farmer or an insurance executive. So it's no wonder they're sometimes reluctant to put their old ones out to pasture.

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