Could Legacy IT Be Holding My Business Back?

By Michael Eaton|26 October 2018

Many companies are over reliant on legacy IT infrastructure and systems. Nine out of ten CIOs and IT leaders can’t make their organisation as efficient as they want, due to technology that is outdated and getting in the way of progress.

According to a Hitachi Consulting survey, replacing legacy systems is taking longer than many IT professionals would expect, getting in the way of growth.

Another survey, by Vanson Bourne of 100 IT leaders in businesses with over 1,000 staff, found that legacy IT prevents at least one third of these from implementing projects. Gartner predicts that for every $1 companies spend on digital innovation, it will cost $3 simply to maintain, modernise and integrate a legacy application portfolio.

In the long-term, this is not sustainable for large corporates in a slow-growth economy when they're facing more agile competitors.

IT managers know how frustrating it can be when using outdated systems, and any staff that have to interact with them often find them a serious drag on productivity. Older systems, with unfamiliar user-interfaces, often prompt more calls to the IT service desk and are more likely to crash, causing further problems. 

Legacy IT: What Are The Options Of IT And Business Leaders? 

It would be wonderful if a legacy system could simply be ripped out and replaced. Unfortunately, bulldozing and starting again might not be an option. Many organisations have systems that rely on countless components and layers of software. Changing one feature could have serious and unknown consequences.

Stefan van der Zijden, research director at Gartner says, “If you’re faced with a legacy challenge, the best approach depends on the problem you’re trying to solve. The key is to understand if your problem is caused by technology, architecture or functionality of the application, and how each modernization approach improves those aspects.”

For IT leaders, there are seven options when faced with a legacy challenge: 

#1: Re-host. Don’t alter the code, or modify features of an application - simply redeploy an application or an application’s component to a new environment, such as a virtual, cloud or physical on-site infrastructure. Moving a legacy feature to a new home can improve operational efficiency and make it easier to fix and keep running.

#2: Re-platform. Like the above. Migrating to a new runtime platform, without making major alterations to the code and features.

#3: Re-factor. This involves more work. Restructure and improve the code base, without changing how it behaves externally. Removing legacy technical debt should make an application run smoother for every stakeholder.

#4: Re-architect. Making more substantive changes to the code will make it easier to move a legacy application to a new architecture and runtime environment, as needed. This way, you can exploit new and improved features, whilst freeing yourself from years of technical debt. 

#5: Encapsulate. Reduce some of the difficulties users encounter. Place as much as you can accessible via an API, thereby leveraging and extending an applications value whilst making it easier to use. Everything else, such as application specific features and inherent knowledge are the other side of the API.

#6: Rebuild. Preserve an applications scope and features, whilst rebuilding from the ground-up. Create cleaner, more agile code, making it easier to scale, move onto new architectures and environments.

#7: Replace. Finally, if other options aren't possible, or the budget exists to start again: rip it down and rebuild. Start from scratch. Work out what you need, then design an application or feature that will deliver that without any of the legacy challenges of older applications.

Conduct an assessment first. Have a thorough understanding of the risks and costs involved. The more organisations do, the greater the cost and risk; although the long-term costs and risks associated with not doing enough are often higher. Take time to consider what is needed and how you can implement changes that will benefit all of your stakeholders. 

Digital transformation is a term you will have heard countless times. This, when implemented with due consideration, can be the answer to legacy IT problems. By migrating to cloud platforms your organisation will benefit from a more flexible, scalable and sustainable IT infrastructure. For more information on Transforming your company’s IT infrastructure click here

If you want support with cloud migration, or would like to discuss your legacy IT issues and explore different solutions, please get in touch here.

You may also like to download our Enterprise Cloud Strategy that explores proven methods for cloud migration.


Further Information

Microsoft - Enterprise Cloud Strategy

Guidance for enterprises looking for proven methods to take their application portfolio to the cloud


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