Many businesses continue to use legacy systems within their organization, but what does this mean? In computing, a legacy system is an old method, though usually technology, computer system, or application program that’s still in use. In an era where one of the main business priorities across industries in digital transformation, these outdated technologies can be a hindrance.

The roadmap to transformation

‘Digital transformation’… everyone’s heard the term, particularly over the last 12 months as it’s been bandied around aplenty due to the coronavirus situation. It’s in danger of becoming a shallow buzzword without any tangible meaning unless people truly understand its definition. So, what exactly is digital transformation?

To quote from the highly regarded technology authority Gartner, it “can refer to anything from IT modernization (for example, cloud computing), to digital optimization, to the invention of new digital business models. The term is widely used to refer to modest initiatives such as putting services online or legacy modernization”. 

So, it’s certainly established that modernization of your legacy systems is indeed part and parcel of digital transformation. But why is it so important? If we go back to Gartner for a second, their Board of Directors Survey highlighted that seven out of 10 boards have accelerated digital business initiatives in the wake of the coronavirus — it’s seen as a top priority because diversification brings resilience to unexpected disruption.

Organization IT Budget

What does modernizing legacy systems mean for your business?

Today, more and more businesses are moving both their applications and older systems to the cloud. Modernizing their older systems gives them the ability to also develop their software in the cloud. But why is that beneficial? Let’s look a little closer…

Cloud-native apps are usually built using Platform-as-a-Service and are made up of independent microservices — this increases flexibility, lowers the cost of alterations, and decreases time to market. These factors enable organizations to deliver and scale software continuously and bring products and services to their customers faster. And of course, they excel in the cloud — an enormous benefit as computing moves evermore off-premise for both businesses, their customers, and the general public. Businesses who can’t develop a higher percentage of their applications using a cloud-native approach risk falling behind in the shift to digital business.

In our digital acceleration article and accompanying infographic, we used a car analogy to describe what it’s like when an organization is unshackled from its legacy systems. ‘To accelerate swiftly, you need to cut excess weight and slow-moving parts. Your organization’s IT systems and processes are no different.’ 

Regardless of what industry you’re in, your customers are living in a digital world. They’re always connected, always talking, and always engaged — so a digital-first strategy is key.

How can you modernize your legacy systems?

1. Justification

Like any improvement to an organization that may be a significant outlay, the business case has to be presented. Modernization of systems is overall best justified as being inclusive of and synonymous with the modernization of legacy applications — that struggle to excel in the cloud, which is a problem as more and more businesses and the end user useless local computation. It’s an important step because, with changes in technology, legacy systems that have reliably served the needs of an organization for a long time can quickly become a drag on both cost and resources so a deep dive into the justification can make for a compelling business case. 

Old technologies

2. Small steps: the incremental approach 

It doesn’t have to be a ‘rip-up and replace’ situation. For example, imagine you set about to modernize your ERP — such a task can appear so daunting that you’re likely to keep putting it off. Citrix CIO Meerah Rajavel explains, “… they’re not pebbles to move, they’re mountains. So think big but deliver in increments. The execution has to be iterative, and when it is, the business gets value along the way.”

She notes that when her team decided to modernize their company’s sales platform, it was still needed to support the business during the modernization process. She had to strategize with others within the business on how to deliver on BAU first while determining the next steps on the way to a fully up-to-date platform.

Discover more about Legacy systems