December 1, 2017
Organizations imprisoned by legacy systems generally have invested in those systems at a level sufficient to keep them running, but insufficient for supporting strategic growth. Further complicating matters, companies saddled with decades-old systems cannot easily replace them. Legacy hardware and software platforms often form the bedrock of their operations. Moreover, companies have incrementally enhanced these systems over many years, to the point where they are exceedingly complex and almost impossible to duplicate with a replacement. These companies have become prisoners of their legacy systems.
As business and operating environments change rapidly and become more complex, the problem of “data silos” and isolation worsens. Lack of collaboration and process integration shows up in several dimensions: across the core the operations’ value chain, vertically from “shop floor to top floor,” and across the extended supply chain.
Sometimes – quite often in fact – the smartest move is not to tear everything out and replace it all with the latest technology, but to stick with what you have and find a way to slowly transition it to a better, more relevant place in your business or to integrate it with new solutions that don’t break your bank.
Here are four ways to get the most out of your legacy systems.
1. Take full stock of your infrastructure and figure out what you need to chuck
Legacy systems can consist of many different components, some more outdated and obsolete than others. Take a full inventory of your current technology infrastructure and decide on which systems simply are no longer feasible to maintain. These will be the systems that your vendors can no longer support, or the ones that cost too much to keep fixing. While you may not have the budget to replace your entire infrastructure, you should prioritize some resources to chucking what is no longer needed or viable to maintain.
2. Update what can be updated
There are still some systems considered “legacy” that can get patches and updates. Some of these can be handled via existing services contracts with your tech providers, but the updates that can’t and that will be advantageous, go ahead and do them yourself because a single update can make a world of difference when it comes to getting the most out of your legacy systems.
3. Look at “accessorizing” your tech
Sometimes the best way to “replace” old technology is to find the right complementary tools to go with it. For example, you may want to replace an automated dispatching solution with a GPS-based solution, or you can add things like voice-based control to your current solutions to make things run faster and smoother. Anything you can do to enhance your solution in a way that fits your needs without unduly dragging the entire system down would be a good endeavor to pursue.
4. Plan for the future of your legacy systems
You already know you need a long-term plan for everything, and this includes your current systems. Per the steps above, especially No. 1 (taking stock of your whole infrastructure), you should prepare a phased approach to slowly replacing and upgrading your antiquated systems. Think particularly, as best you can, of where things will be five years down the line for your industry as a whole and look at where your competitors already are. For example, are they already using cloud-based solutions? If so, you should be thinking about getting on the cloud.
Bottom line is ease of use – and communicability
Whether you’re planning to replace your entire enterprise application system, replace one application or component at a time, or apply localized patches, any approach to making the most of your legacy systems is better than no approach at all.
The key, though, and the prism you should be looking through for the entire process, is how easy your systems are to use and also how well they communicate with each other. Over the last five years IT has been consumerized, and employees need things to be easy to deploy, fix, and work, above all else. Mobility is key, as is ease of integration with vendor and other third-party systems, and communicability between systems, because if your systems exist in silos and aren’t communicating with each other, they won’t be successful, and neither will your company.
If your legacy system is in need of total replacement, then that’s what you need to do. But remember that complete overhaul isn’t your only option. With a comprehensive assessment of your needs, the right updates, proper accessorizing, and good long-term planning, you can make the most of your legacy systems and ensure your legacy systems stay viable even though the tech world’s fast changes.
April Rassa leads product marketing and growth at Progressly, the world's first cloud-based operational performance management solution. Rassa has more than 15 years of management experience across various industries and is a strong advocate for the overall customer experience.