What’s driving change in Legacy IT? Part 2

You can’t please all the people all the time, the adage goes, but with consumers and end users vocal when their increasingly high expectations are not met, the pressure to deliver a high quality, digital experience is on.

High Tech Expectations

Legacy systems are commonly those critical to day-to-to operations based on outdated technologies. Their reliance on antiquated terminology and methods cause the confusion, stickiness and frustrating experiences that many of us are all too familiar with.

Millennials, or Generation Y, are set to form the majority of the workplace by 2020 (source: KPMG) and their attitude to legacy systems is less tolerant.

Millennials have grown up with the internet, smartphones, apps and ‘click and use’ software with intuitive interfaces. A green screen and ‘IT training’ is anathema to Generation Y – they expect to be using modern systems.

A study by Wired revealed frustration levels in certain IT scenarios – such as finding documents, information sharing and locating co-worker details – were far higher for 18-24 year olds.

Investing in the top technology has, therefore, become critical to attract and retain top talent. Digital natives value companies on the leading edge highly. In fact, 93% of millennial job hunters cite businesses having leading tech as an important deciding factor when choosing a workplace. Starker still is the finding that 42%, of the same cohort, would leave a company based on it using “substandard technology”.

Optimising the end user experience or UX, not just for millennial developers in-house, but also for customers, is a clear priority. Where the ease of use and intuitive, seamless experience they expect is lacking, they vote with their feet.

Elevation of IT to a strategic function

We blogged previously on the evolution of IT from a support function to a strategic one. Executives now take a far more active interest in what their users are doing, with an eye to improving their value proposition and the profitability it can generate.

Today’s C-suiters tend to favour an open door policy, becoming more heavily influenced by the people who use the software on a day to day basis. They are wising up to the fact that companies that increase their efficiencies with the use of appropriate software and tools stand to gain the leading edge. So what does that mean to the legacy debate?

Data protection

Another big driver for tackling legacy systems is the risk of losing important and sensitive data. Legacy systems pose a security risk; the older they are the more vulnerable they often become. Outdated software in a legacy system frequently creates security breaches; a sitting duck for hackers.

Last year, in fact, the attacks of WannaCry and NotPetya both used known vulnerabilities of legacy operating systems – namely SMB v1 protocol.

The potential reputational loss, observed very publicly in the press, is in itself enough to drive organisations big and small to update their systems.

A useful measure of any initial IT investment is to weigh it up against possible regulatory fines, reputational damage and the long term loss of core business. Also, against the cost of keeping a legacy system on life support, absorbing up to 80% of IT budgets in some cases – money that could be better spent on innovation and progress.

Compliance and reputational risk

New regulations around data, GDPR for example, bring a lesser but still sizeable threat. Fines are one possibility, a cost headache nobody needs – reputational damage is another.

Legacy systems can struggle to cope with incoming regulatory and legislative requirements. Add bolt-on software to the mix, and the situation becomes yet more complex and harder to manage.

Bridging the gap between old and new is a constant challenge and balancing act, sitting high on any CIO’s priority list. By modernising legacy systems, the decision is made to improve functionality, save money on the day to day operations (plus support and maintenance) whilst also delivering more value to end users, customers and stakeholders. Pleasing all the people all the time suddenly seems a whole lot more achievable.


If you’re interested in reading more about Legacy systems and how they impact digital transformation, read the Triad’s IT Leaders and legacy challenges eBook here.


Adrian Leer

Managing Director