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Modernising Legacy IT Systems

Unfortunately, modernising legacy IT systems is non-negotiable. It sounds harsh, but today, businesses that don’t act and take modernisation very seriously will have to navigate through the dust left behind by those that do.

Even though it’s widely accepted that the cloud is the way things work today, there are still a huge amount of enterprises who are yet to adopt and adapt. Eventually, there will become a time where businesses are moving beyond cloud-first to cloud-only, which is when it will become difficult for those running legacy systems to keep up.

What is a Legacy IT System?

When we refer to legacy IT systems, the common assumption is that we’re talking about IT that is old, be it hardware or software. While age is certainly a factor in how well some systems run, that’s not entirely the deciding factor.

Legacy systems are those that are operating without adequate support, documentation and ability to integrate with newer tech. If you have an old piece of hardware or software that is still supported, still being updated, and still documented fully, you might not want to consider it legacy in this context. However, if it’s an old system that is showing its age and proves difficult to work with or integrate alongside other tools your business utilises, it could be diminishing your potential.

For many IT professionals, a legacy system is something that’s inherited. For example, the business built it x years ago and has always relied on it, but those who were involved in the build no longer work within the business. It may work just fine today, but a modern application or system, for example, could be built to utilise microservices, making the application easier to maintain, scale and integrate with other business or third party systems.

Why Modernising Legacy IT Systems is Vital

There are many reasons to modernise. To start with, today’s technology and industrial demands are putting more of a burden on existing systems than ever before. When your company is trying to understand vast amounts of data, working with online and mobile commerce, or providing 24/7 service around the world, it’s hard to do it effectively on a system that was initially built when websites were built as tables, and the fastest connection available was 56 kbit/s.

Even if your legacy IT system is not quite that old, there’s been a lot of change since the dawn of the cloud, with applications built for and using the cloud taking advantage of…

  • The Software as a Service deployment model
  • Less reliance on physical, on-premise hardware
  • Portability between methods of hosting
  • Savings in hosting and maintenance
  • Faster release cycles
  • Reduced development time
  • Better alignment between application and business
  • Test and integrate new forms of tech, such as big data, AI and machine learning.

Modern IT systems are efficient and open. With the cloud, your data is integrated and able to be controlled in one central location. Thanks to virtualisation, maintenance and management can also be handled from a single view using a tool like VMWare V-Cloud Director. You are still dealing with data that is coming in from all over the place, but at the same time, you can access it from anywhere. All of these benefits (along with many more) mean that modern IT systems make your work faster, easier to monitor and easier to manage.

It’s also important to note that if your company is working with legacy systems, it is competing with others who are newer, more modern, and readily able to adapt to a rapidly changing market. If you’re trying to capture the same clients, you will likely begin to lose out to those who have already modernised. Even if clients don’t know the ins and outs of your tech, its pricing, frequency of updates and ease of implementation will all play their part in buying decisions, all of which are affected by how it’s built.

Creating a Plan for Modernising Legacy IT Systems

For high-tech startup companies, it’s easy — they’re working with modern, agile systems right away. For companies working with legacy IT systems, though, it’s a bit more complicated to catch up. Modernising legacy IT systems is well worth the effort, but it is not something that can happen overnight.

When making your plan for modernisation, start by understanding why your company would benefit from newer, more agile tech. This motivation is what can encourage the rest of the company to buy in to modernisation, helping the IT department make it a priority that gets traction.

We touched on this theme in a previous blog, but the board level concern related to modernisation is digital transformation. You can’t have one without the other, and so modernisation needs to be pitched to budget holders, who will likely be keen on digitally securing the future of your applications and, in turn, business.

This will also assist with the decision making process, making it less of a general update project and turn it into one which deals with the application and how it relates to the business. It will take into account for its priorities, its current weaknesses, how it could better serve the business/ clients and how the cloud can alleviate any issues.

For instance, your company might be motivated by the improved functionality and operations modern IT systems bring. Staff could be very excited at the prospect of using mobile devices, being able to access systems from machines anywhere in the world, or even the improved user experience that comes with modern tech. If your staff have been begrudgingly putting up with an old school look and feel as well as lagging software (and likely moaning about it), the thought of modernisation can be extremely appealing.

Maybe your business can be motivated by the promise of increased security and privacy, always important, especially as regulatory compliance becomes more controlled and important to prove around the world. The monetary and reputation cost of a privacy breach is huge, and the added security and control of modern tech is certainly a big draw.

Whatever your reason, communicate it with the necessary departments to be sure everyone is on board, ensuring any possible concerns are noted and planned for up front. When systems change, people can feel like it is risky, so getting as much buy-in as practicable beforehand is helpful.

It’s likely that your systems will be modernised incrementally in order to avoid downtime, which wreaks havoc for businesses. Some parts of the system could be upgraded or enhanced with modern tech, while others may be refactored and some removed completely. There’s no one approach to this process, but the end result should be a far more flexible IT system that can be added to over time while supporting future growth of the business.

Of course, modernising is always easier with a well thought out process, a solid road map and some outside help. Even with the best plans in place, there are pitfalls that can turn modernisation into more of a struggle than it needs to be. Experience is everything in this area, which is why it is very helpful to work with a partner that’s been through this process a number of times, and can handle the bulk of the work as an addition to your teams.

Modernising an application correctly means that, for the wider business, end users and even clients, they won’t know anything’s changed, and won’t experience down time. The hope is that, should they notice anything different, it will be an overall performance improvement, improved access onto additional devices or a reduction in processing times.

When it comes to modernising legacy IT systems, we knows where to start and how to do it. We helped Turnkey Group modernise their mission critical application, IPS, which is used by over 90% of accountancy practitioners in the UK.

If you’d like to know how we can help with a forthcoming legacy IT project, read more about our replatforming and cloud strategy services.

Interested in some further reading in this area? Check out our e-book about redesigning managed services, which presents our philosophy behind modernisation and how to go about moving it forward. We are experienced in analysing companies with legacy IT systems and consulting with staff on all levels to provide thorough and thought provoking detail as to how to go about improving systems. With our outside perspective, we can help you get where you want to be without excess risk or unnecessary downtime.

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