Staying Ahead of the Curve: Strategies for Replacing Legacy Systems

Darren Doyle

The pace of technological change challenges every company. When outdated systems remain in place too long, the impacts are felt organization-wide, from diminished productivity to dangerous compliance issues. What might have been a headache becomes a migraine to maintain.

Legacy systems aren’t just defined by their age.

Generally, a system is classified as legacy when the technology prevents the enterprise from being able to meet business demands in a timely, cost effective manner. Legacy systems are labeled as such because they are challenging – if not impossible – to maintain, support or upgrade. Sound familiar?

When is it time to say, “Houston, we have a problem?”

The most common indicators that your IT strategy is legacy-challenged include:

  • Systems so outdated that employees and customers struggle to use them
  • Costs for updates and customization are going up and up
  • Key systems can’t be integrated
  • Only experienced employees with “tribal” knowledge can maintain them
  • Systems lack out-of-box functionality and flexibility of newer technology that may be less expensive to support
  • IT department spends considerable time just keeping the system running
  • System is no longer compliant with regulatory requirements.

These are common ailments that plague every business. And while there’s no one size fits all approach to addressing legacy needs, there are four specific widely-recognized options to cure those legacy headaches, including:

  1. Optimization – Manipulates existing hardware or software to increase the efficiency and flexibility of the legacy system
  2. Re-engineering – Rebuilds the application with existing features or with new features and some optimization
  3. Re-hosting – Adopts cloud-based servers and storage to address legacy server infrastructure
  4. Replacing – Replaces legacy systems in their entirety
  5. Like every complex business decision, determining which of these is the right approach depends on your enterprise’s requirements, the extent and nature of the challenges faced, costs and budget, and future goals.

As more solutions move to the cloud, it is becoming increasingly essential that every business knows exactly where it stands when it comes to legacy systems. As reliance on IT to perform virtually any business function has become pervasive, IT strategy is now at the forefront for overall enterprise success.

Assessing and addressing legacy challenges may not be a perfect science, but future competitiveness depends on it.