Whether or not it's true, it certainly doesn't make the IT folks that develop, run, and support that system feel very good.
Are some of these (legacy) systems ugly?
Well, of course, they are.
Many of them work despite themselves.
What I mean by that is they are awkward to navigate and use.
The functionality is flawed or outdated.
The workflows are unnecessarily complex.
The user interface is inconsistent and sloppy.
The user experience is punishing.
I told someone recently in using a particular system that was so convoluted:
"Is this system what they give to prisoners and make them use over and over again to punish them for hideous violent crimes?"
Seriously, that's how it felt, even as I knew it was still lightyears ahead of what a paper process still used in other organizations looks like.
Generally better than the waterfall methodology for the systems development life cycle, I understand that one dilemma with agile development is that requirements can be spotty from sprint to sprint and instead of doing the hard work and thinking it out upfront, users are made to expect a nearly endless series of enhancements and tinkering, which isn't practical functionally or financially either.
Even an ugly baby is still ours, and we love it and nurture it, and even help it change for the better--that's part of our responsibility.
Whether we parented a real baby or an IT system, we have pride of ownership and a sense of accountability to the person, system, and future.
My father always taught me never to throw out dirty water until you have clean water.
Similarly, we shouldn't throw out the (ugly) baby with the bathwater.
We need to work together--technologists and system users--to make truly functional systems and a user experience more like gaming where the players are so happy, attached (and even addicted) to it that they sometimes don't even get up to eat or go to the bathroom.
We should love what we have and use, and we should, therefore, work hard to make these things great.
And an ugly baby can be made gorgeous again. ;-)
(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)