Data Migration And Digital Transformation: Making The Successful Shift From Legacy Systems

To keep up with modernization, it's time to move away from legacy systems


The allure of new technology can be a difficult one to resist, especially for companies who have operated under the same best practices for decades. On one hand, these current systems might be doing their job just fine. After all, they’ve had plenty of maintenance, routine updates, and quality control checks over the years. Moreover, IT leaders have had time to scrutinize and review their performance and make any operating tweaks as required. In workplaces where this is the case, convincing C-suite executives that investing in innovation is a necessary undertaking could take some time, though the value of new technology cannot be overlooked, regardless of industry.

Yet, on the other hand, the very work that’s gone into maintaining your legacy systems could be causing them to fail. Years of being manipulated, adjusted and fine-tuned can leave both software and hardware brittle and resistant to modernization and change. Add to this the fact that outdated systems are often ill-prepared to facilitate seamless data transfer and are often riddled with usability issues, and you’ve got a recipe for risk. In fact, 62% of IT leaders say that outdated legacy systems are holding them back from pursuing innovative new tech avenues, such as multi-cloud migration. When this occurs, many companies will opt to perform a modernization project, wherein they’ll convert, rewrite, or portion up a legacy system to a more modern computing environment.

Programming languages, hardware platforms, protocols and more serve as examples of elements that are commonly updated during this process. The end goal is usually not to completely eliminate the legacy systems, but to preserve the good that they provided while bringing them up to speed with newer applications and interfaces.

A few of the reasons why your legacy systems might need a facelift include:

They’re difficult to maintain. To keep a system running requires the implementation of legacy languages, as well as programming tools. If your systems can only be supported by resources that are quickly becoming obsolete, it’s only a matter of time before they become unfixable. In addition, the cost to acquire such tools can be enormous, even if you’re willing to pay the price.

Original users are leaving the company. The IT executive who installed your CRM program a decade ago may be moving on, or the HR leader in charge of handling all employee onboarding might be ready to retire. The older your legacy systems get, the more likely it is that their original users are no longer with the company, or at least working there in the same capacity. Younger staff members may also be hesitant to learn the languages as well because doing so doesn’t offer any long-term career benefit.

They can’t integrate with other systems. Legacy systems are often built on an architecture that doesn’t facilitate seamless integration with other new IT systems. As such, a breakdown in communication could occur during data migration and data loss is even a possibility. If you suspect your legacy platform is outdated to the point of breaking the chain of command, it’s important to know this before beginning any migration.

They can’t keep up with customer demand. Thanks to the proliferation of digitalization into almost every facet of our lives, the average consumer today is discerning and expects to be able to communicate with a brand at any time, from anywhere. Companies still operating via outdated and clunky legacy systems might not be able to meet those demands and as such, can fall behind. For instance, a recent study revealed that online shoppers expect 24/7 customer service from companies with an online presence. If you’re still using the same ticketing system from years ago, they’ll likely take their questions (and their business) elsewhere.

Strategizing the Migration: Key Points to Remember

If you’re about to undertake a legacy migration process, understand that it’s akin to a traditional software development process, but operates under a more lengthy and complex timeframe riddled with constraints.

Your first step should be to develop and get into writing a legacy migration plan, as well as a development plan. In the latter, you’ll include details surrounding how you’ll choose which software processes, tools, and hardware you’re going to integrate. In your migration plan, you’ll discuss how you’ll handle the operational transition to the new system. While developing both plans, be sure to consider how this migration will affect current deployments so you can schedule system downtimes strategically so as to not interfere with mission-critical employee work.

Make sure all key stakeholders are aware of and on board with the resources, money, personnel and time it will take to complete all of the steps. As your legacy system may be necessary across multiple departments, it may be necessary to divide the process up into stages. As such, projects such as these can take months or even years.

Upping the Value of Legacy Systems with Modernization

The term 'legacy system' doesn’t have to immediately conjure up negative connotations. In many instances, they’re examples of how long a solid and well-built system can last. Yet, for modern workplaces to keep pace with an increasingly competitive global environment, ensuring that software and hardware work as effectively as they can should be a key business aim. Utilizing effective strategies and tools, it’s not only possible to facilitate a seamless transition -- it’s necessary. 


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