What are the major challenges of legacy transformation? Part 2

Parting with legacy systems can be a wrench, but in business it’s crucial to move forward to keep up with changing customer expectations. Debates on how to best modernise legacy systems rage on; does the business migrate a large, monolithic system piecemeal – breaking the project down into manageable chunks – or all at once?

Abandoning legacy systems completely is not a viable option for many organisations, especially long established ones. Carlsberg is one example of a business taking a hybrid approach – harnessing the internet and cloud computing to boost agility, increase efficiency and reduce costs. Deploying a software-defined hybrid network is a choice that Carlsberg’s CTO insists “doesn’t mean putting a digital veneer on [our] old infrastructure”.

Indeed, implementing a mix of technologies has been successful for many. Companies may benefit from retaining legacy as a record system, while integrating other more modern apps into it.

Difficulties of running hybrid solutions

One serious consideration with running hybrid solutions is the importance of master data: that holy grail and ‘single source of truth’. The better the grip an organisation has on the data it holds, the more it benefits.

Effective data management creates a consistent, reliable bank of data that can be shared across applications and business units. This oils the cogs of effective data flow and in turn, so does performance.

Increasing the number of barriers that exist between that data and the functions that need access to it can create road blocks. Hybrid IT creates a greater diversity of data sources, potentially hampering the accuracy, quality and efficiency of data. And as we all know, bad data means bad business.

Resourcing struggles

Finding the right people in a challenging job market is a perennial issue, whether hiring for new or old systems. It is, however, heightened during a period of digital transformation (DX).

Sourcing people with the skills to run legacy systems is now a particular source of concern. As those with the specific skills edge closer to retirement, finding developers who can code in bygone language is a challenge – particularly when vendors no longer offer support for legacy products.

Another issue of DX that includes migration away from legacy is the threat posed to longer-term staff with legacy skills. Bringing these people on the digital journey with you, giving them significant roles even, is a key consideration to maintain morale.

Upgrading to more mainstream applications with standard language widens the hiring pool, yet competition is fiercer than ever. Millennial employees expect to be working with new technology, granted, but they also seek out a competitive, progressive culture alongside this.

Staying agile as an organisation

Internal resourcing can be all consuming, but it’s vital to also keep an eye on the end user experience. Doing so forces us to take stock of the current landscape and architecture. (A quick word to the wise: laser focus on the end user is vital for successful digital transformation – but to play devil’s advocate, a shiny new UX means nothing without a back end process that is fit for purpose.)

Consumers fully expect to access information on tablets and phones. Adding on new interactions or portals to enable this where it doesn’t exist on legacy can get complicated, when often the end goal is to streamline and simplify.

Agile – now an umbrella term for a plethora of techniques, processes and methodologies, is at its heart a principle of simplicity. More traditional Waterfall methods also strive towards the same goal: to streamline the way we get software development projects done. Regardless of the approach, the key is being nimble enough to deliver on time, learn quickly, and adapt accordingly.

Change and opportunity

Our recent blog series has highlighted the reasons to consider replacing a legacy system, from keeping up with IT trends and hiring shifts, to remaining competitive and efficient, with cost-effective operations.

We’ve also discussed the inherent risks and challenges, both technological and cultural – of complete legacy change, and weighed up hybrid and incremental approaches.

If you’re thinking of replacing a legacy system, strong digital and technological smarts are an obvious advantage. Keen awareness of the classic legacy pitfalls is another. Organisations who engage with experienced partners to adopt the right approach need have nothing to fear when it comes to delivering true digital transformation.

Interested in reading more about Legacy systems and how they impact digital transformation, read Triad’s eBook including views from 38 IT leaders here