Interviewed by Adam Burroughs | Smart Business Magazine | INSIGHTS Digital Transformation
Legacy systems are relied upon to perform an organization's day-to-day work. But, in many cases, technology has improved drastically since companies first implemented those systems, leading to a point at which the tasks those systems perform could strain those systems beyond what they can handle. This opens the door to failure, user frustration and more.
"When your system no longer supports scalability, you lose the competitive advantage in the market," says Nishan Kumar, project manager at EOX Vantage.
Smart Business spoke with Kumar about how to recognize when it's time to address the problems caused by older legacy systems, and how upgrades can improve workflows.
What are some of the signs that a legacy system is not working well?
One of the signs that a legacy system should be tuned up or augmented is the maintenance cost. Fixes to a legacy system often require the use of older technologies, which means a specific skill set is required to maintain the system. That typically comes from an in-house team member or long-time outside vendor. But sometimes the person who installed it or who has the expertise to fix it is no longer with the company, or the vendor stops providing the specific support the legacy system requires. That can leave a company with a system that can't be fixed, which puts it in a risky spot where a failure of any sort could happen.
Integration is one of the most critical aspects of modern-day technology. This is the ability of systems to talk to each other, for example through third-party APIs for user authentication and data sharing. When a legacy system is isolated from other systems, it increases the costs of operations because of the maintenance of these multiple systems, as well as degradation in accuracy and execution of tasks such as the publication of work and ability to perform repetitive tasks. All of this collectively increases the time necessary for completion or turnaround of an activity.
Compliance and security issues can also arise with legacy systems. Some companies operate under heavily regulated standards. Non-compliance with these policies can lead to significant penalties. It can also make any updates or changes very expensive because the often-outdated technology is not supported, or there is limited expertise to implement the required change. Legacy systems are also vulnerable to cyber attacks as the outdated technology or the software no longer gets patched, creating security gaps.
What issues are created when there are multiple systems attempting to work together?
A business ecosystem comprises multiple components, each performing a specific function. Given this, there are multiple systems designated and dedicated to execute them independently. The problem with having multiple systems is that you have no visibility or control over these disparate data sources. There may be compatibility issues with the system that can lead to nightmares when you're compiling a report.
There may be issues with multiple logins, for which multiple user credentials need to be maintained. Limited maintenance and support options also add to the problems.
How might organizations address issues with legacy systems?
Problems with legacy systems can be diagnosed by a knowledgeable vendor, in part by mapping critical business processes through the system to find gaps and inefficiencies that impact the overall turnaround times of important or regularly performed tasks.
Solutions can be found, depending on the type of business and who interacts with the system, that streamline individual components or systems. There are ways to automate manual, repetitive tasks and free the human resources to focus on more critical tasks, allowing the system to take care of the rest. Automation workflows and unification of critical components of the system can improve turnaround time and reduce costs.
Find an outside provider, preferably one that has experience within the organization's industry as well as experience addressing issues with legacy systems. It's best to find a provider that has cross-platform experience and can come at it from a consultative standpoint, not one that's predisposed to a solution that comes from a single product.