There’s an overwhelming push for companies to become agile and digital-first to compete in today’s hyper connected economy. To do so requires modernizing legacy systems that support the delivery of exceptional services, products, and experiences at scale.
A modernization initiative can be costly and time-consuming. Starting with a well-thought out strategy can alleviate some of the challenges and get buy-in from leaders that otherwise underestimate the importance of a modernization project. Here are some things to consider to better understand if it’s time to upgrade your legacy systems.
Who is impacted by Legacy Systems?
In some way, shape or form, everyone is impacted by operating on legacy systems. Here’s how.
When companies run even part of their operations on legacy systems, flexibility and scalability are dramatically limited. This means that the efficiency of process, technology, and people is only as effective as the legacy systems supporting their operations. The outcome of substandard operations start internally then trickle down to the consumer experience.
The Consumer Experience
Technologies such as mobile, faster-speed networks, the cloud, IoT, AI and more have raised the bar for exceptional experiences to new (hard to attain) high. All businesses today depend on technology and are, arguably, digital-forward to varying degrees. However, trends show that as technology evolves, further changing consumer behavior and expectations, legacy systems are increasingly becoming a barrier to exceptional consumer experiences. And subpar consumer experiences drive customers away.
While the burden of poor consumer experiences are felt across an organization, IT departments and other staff feel the burden of legacy systems for entirely separate reasons. Processes and work flows running on old programs that no longer integrate with other systems, simply put, are direct barriers to efficiency and success. Even if a legacy system is still functional in the role it is serving, it may not be optimized to interact with other systems. This creates challenges in delivering the best services and products to internal departments, customers and partners.
the question of ownership
CIOs and their teams manage the technology ecosystem and strategy at organizations. They have incisive knowledge into what is working, and what is not. Generally speaking, they are the digital and technology visionaries that want to implement innovation at their organization. So when an organization starts to feel the burden of legacy systems, usually CIOs and IT leaders are at the helm of modernization initiatives. CMOs or Product leaders are sometimes advocates and influencers and can act as partners to push a modernization initiative through.
Plan for success
Modernizing legacy system is an important part of digital transformation and remaining future-proof. But it doesn’t have automatic buy-in from the C-suite. By starting with a well-thought out strategic plan you can put this initiative on the track to success. Here are few things to consider as you get started.
Taking a look at current systems with a few specific considerations taken can quickly garner the support of stakeholders.
- Can this system seamlessly integrate with all other current systems?
- If not, is there a clear, justifiable reason to keep it?
- Does this system require extra time, attention, or money to continue operating at an acceptable level of performance? Is acceptable ideal?
- Are data processing errors able to be quickly identified and rectified within this system?
- What level of investment has gone into this system? What level of investment still goes into maintaining this system?
- Does this system hinder possible partnerships with other organizations?
- Can this system handle increased volumes of data?
Initiate the Project
How can this project be initiated? First the case must be made that it’s time. E.T. Bell first uttered the adage, “Time makes fools of us all. Our only comfort is that greater shall come after us.” with the human condition in mind, but it’s extraordinary applicable to technology and legacy systems as well. Even if a system is comfortable within an organization and has served its purpose well for decades, technology is evolving fast and great systems become obsolete all the time. There may be something out there that is faster, better, more efficient, more cost-effective, or just an overall better fit that can make life easier for customers, staff, and business leaders.
Before pitching a sleek, new system or discounting a legacy system, there are a few key considerations that should be discussed. One of the biggest is: how hard will it be to transition to a new system? This is a big question. Often organizations will pitch and believe in a new system, but ultimately fail to migrate, because it’s just too difficult to transfer processes or data. Unfortunately, it is generally still within the best interest of an organization to modernize their systems, but because of the upfront costs and the pressure put on operations they fail to do so in a time and cost effective manner.
Also, a modernization effort doesn’t necessarily mean fully eliminating legacy systems or programs. Here at JDK we are strong advocates for building cloud-based solutions that are custom-built to integrate with legacy systems, where it makes sense. For our client Unite HERE Health, we built a cloud-based web application that modernized business-critical work flows and processes for both employees and clients.
A similar approach can be a great option if your business isn’t ready for a full upgrade, but still wants to scale or modernize programs.
- What features of this legacy system need to be kept?
- How difficult will it be to integrate a new system?
- How much time and financial investment has gone into keeping this system alive?
- What operations will be impacted by this transition and how can you plan to alleviate the burden?
- What timeline should this be completed on?
- Who will feel the stress of transition the hardest and how can they be helped?
- What kind of time and money will go into implementing a new solution?
- Show a timeline to employees with clear landmarks for each step of transition
- Make the change!
- Measure the impact on conversions and customer drop off.
- Reflect with employees about the transition and see how the new system is working.
- Record changes in cost and time allocation now that the system has changed.
the benefits of upgrading are worth it
So, why modernize? Who benefits the most? The short answer: everyone benefits from modernizing legacy systems. Even if the upfront stress of integrating a new system can be burdensome to employees, eventually everyone will feel the relief of faster, flexible, and scalable work flows, better customer experiences, and reduced workloads for IT professionals.
The long answer is dependent on specific situations, but business leaders are probably the most keen to feel the shift of ease after transitioning to a modernized system. Shifting to a new system can reduce costs, increase output and productivity, and increase conversions. All of this benefits business and IT leaders who are looking to make their business more efficient.
Upgrading legacy systems is beneficial for a lot of reasons. But it’s also simply a forward-thinking thing to do. At some point, all legacy systems become unusable and limit the growth potential of a business. Is it time to upgrade your legacy systems?