Legacy IT is becoming a costly headache within enterprises. In my conversations with business and IT leaders, it’s clear that the risk of maintaining older infrastructure is quickly outweighing the cost or effort of upgrading or replacing it with modern technology.
Yet, as the technical debt of legacy IT grows, everything from security to customer and employee satisfaction is compromised. With this in mind, I’d like to share my views on why every organisation should have its sights set on upgrading or replacing legacy systems.
Defining ‘legacy IT’ in the modern era
It wasn’t too long ago that the term ‘legacy IT’ referred to decades-old technology, making me picture dusty mainframes sitting in dark corners. Yet as the years goes by, we’ve seen the timeframe from ‘new’ to ‘legacy’ shrink – today, a five-year-old piece of equipment could easily wear the legacy label.
I now define legacy IT as technology that’s missing one key ingredient: modern APIs (application programming interfaces). Like a recalcitrant teenager, legacy IT doesn’t communicate freely, especially with modern software – making it hard to integrate with other platforms and tap into the potential of innovative modern technologies.
No organisation is immune
Legacy IT systems are extremely common within organisations today, simply because so many mission-critical business processes are tied to them. Amongst the companies we consult with at Brennan, about 20% of a typical organisation’s IT is legacy. Industries like finance and telecommunications, which operate in highly regulated environments, are particularly susceptible; as are organisations involved in mergers and acquisitions, because the process of acquiring another business will often mean acquiring their technology, too.
Not sure whether the technology you use today is adding to your technical debt? When you have legacy IT systems in place, you are likely to experience one or more of the following issues:
- Disparate systems that don’t talk to each other.
- Manual processes are needed to bridge the gap between different technology platforms.
- Difficulty in migrating data from one system to another, because they lack clear, corresponding fields.
Yet ignoring legacy IT will just make things worse
The cost of legacy systems is accelerating. As businesses become more reliant on automation and intelligent technologies, there’s a significant risk that tying these modern technologies to older systems further deepens your dependence on the older systems. This is particularly the case with things like Robotic Process Automation (RPA) – if you have to tightly couple RPA to legacy systems, it will be exceedingly difficult to extricate yourself down the track.
Another negative impact of legacy systems is on business agility and performance. Because they lack APIs, it’s nearly impossible to link your legacy systems to the modern SaaS platforms built for innovation. It means you may miss out on the market-leading tools that your competitors are using to bring their products to market faster.
Plus, there’s staff productivity and employee experience to consider. Today’s workforce knows what good technology looks and feels like, as they are using it every day in their personal lives. If you don’t deliver the same experience at work, you could risk frustrating and ultimately losing your top talent.
When it comes to productivity, older technology can slow things down. When Brennan upgraded our helpdesk ticketing system to the industry leading platform Service Now, we experienced massive productivity gains. Automation meant that onboarding of new customers dropped from five days to five minutes, while using our bespoke API for server monitoring reduced ticket volumes from 5,000 per month to 1,500. Overall, we saw a three-fold reduction in workload, which meant our people could turn their attention to more value-additive tasks.
Helping you build your business case to move away from legacy IT
It’s better to be fast than brilliant in business today (in my opinion). While your older platform might be deeply embedded into operations, it could be holding you back from reaching new customers and growing your business.
If you’re looking to replace legacy IT with modern systems, a great place to start is in building your business case for investing in an upgrade or replacement, and taking it to senior management for stakeholder buy-in. Here are some practical steps you can take today to get started:
1. Define your business goals for the upgrade/replacement project. For example, are you looking to enhance security? Give employees access to more powerful collaboration and productivity tools?
2. Define what’s wrong with your existing system, keeping your goals in mind. For example, you could show how siloed data can’t easily flow from one platform to another, which is compromising the customer experience.
3. Conduct a needs analysis and rank in order of impact, so that you are addressing the most valuable changes first.
4. Research workable solutions. An MSP can help, here. They should be able to advise and recommend technology platforms to suit your specific needs; and can help tailor the technology to fit your needs and budget.
Of course, you can engage an experienced MSP from the outset. They can help you review your current IT environment, build your business case, and help you realise your goal for moving those costly old systems into the modern age. The main thing, though, is to start now. As each period of time passes, legacy IT gets increasingly difficult to move.