Reasons to upgrade your legacy systems
Upgrading your legacy systems: A digital advantage or giant waste of money?
For most enterprises, the thought of upgrading a longstanding legacy system is quite daunting. It can be a highly cumbersome process with lots of moving parts to account for, generally leading to an if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it mindset. The process of upgrading is also infamous for often being a costly exercise – causing many business leaders to cling to their deteriorating systems. When a legacy system still meets the current requirements, it’s hard to justify spending resources to stay up to date.
Globally, IT has earned a poor reputation by making headlines for money being wasted on major legacy upgrades, often massively impacting customers due to rushed projects. This is due to a misperception that digitisation has to include scrapping existing technology and starting over. But your upgrade could find a happy medium by adopting a hybrid approach between legacy and modern systems.
Although your ageing digital tools may get the job done, it’s important to recognise when your business has the need for a modernised alternative. Deteriorating legacy systems and processes you currently have in place can only take you so far until they start falling behind. This will impede your business from thriving in the long run.
Four reasons to upgrade your legacy system:
There are many justifications for system upgrades, but your main driving forces to consider are:
1. Upgrades reduce security risks
Legacy software was initially focused on functionality more than security and is often vulnerable to attack from cyber criminals. Underpinning technology stacks could also be nearing end of life and will not see future upgrades. For businesses operating under some of the more recent regulatory compliance requirements such as POPI and GDPR, outdated technologies can lead to repercussions in the form of penalties and reputational damage.
2. There is a shrinking talent pool to service legacy systems
The skills needed to support ageing systems are becoming scarce and expensive. There are many of these solutions still in service, but the number IT professionals who can understand and update the code dwindles as the modern workforce moves towards relevant and transferrable technology skillsets.
3. Operating and maintaining legacy systems is costly
The cost of legacy technology maintenance, in the form of licensing and expensive specialised hardware, often outweighs the upgrade investment, even over shorter timeframes. The biggest cost risk is of course that of the potential failure of a legacy system and the resulting business losses.
4. Innovation is stifled
Older technologies and systems will limit the level of innovation and not able to take advantage of more modern solutions that customers have become accustomed to.
How to navigate an upgrade project
Before starting your upgrade, consider the following to ensure your business stays up and running:
• Avoid one massive upgrade, and the “big bang” approach. Rather focus on constantly making smaller innovations and renewing as you go.
• Do enough research and don’t fall for fancy buzzwords like artificial intelligence or robotic process automation, because the chances are you won’t actually need it. Rather understand what your business truly needs to grow. There are no silver bullets.
• Ensure any new solutions are designed around compatibility with current systems to create a more seamless transition. Start with a complete audit of your technology landscape to gain a clear picture of potential impact. This ensures that no surprise failures pop up when going live with a new system.
There are many obvious and not-so-obvious reasons for upgrading your legacy system, and it’s better to make a decision to upgrade your system now than to have the decision forced upon you later. But being old doesn’t mean technology doesn’t add value either. Sometimes changes in business processes are more important than technological changes.
Considering whether to upgrade or replace legacy systems is a daunting task for many, but if you do embark on an upgrade, success will come from moving methodically and pragmatically.