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8 Steps for Legacy Modernisation (3)

Our 8-point solution for legacy modernisation outlines a number of critical success factors that allow organisations to address and overcome the constraints of legacy IT systems as part of a wider digital transformation. In the third and final part of this series, we take a look at Investment, Motivation and Strategy:

Critical success factors that help address and overcome the constraints of legacy IT systems as part of a wider digital transformation.

The impact of COVID-19 through 2020 has forced increasing swathes of the population to work remotely. This in turn has placed increasing pressure on businesses that had previously been slow to transform digitally, bringing into relief how vulnerable they were to digital change, and dramatically accelerating their need to transform operations in order to both communicate and collaborate with their employees and partners, but also to deliver services and engage with their customers and stakeholders through digital environments.

A persistent issue holding back the pace and scale of many industries’ digital transformation ambitions relates to a reluctance to swap out desktop-centric, weighty, and cumbersome enterprise legacy tech, which is increasingly burdensome and costly to maintain.

In some 25 years of modernising enterprise systems, we have noted a number of critical success factors in being able to address and overcome the constraints of legacy IT systems as part of a wider digital transformation.

These factors condense into our 8-point solution for legacy modernisation.  In the third and final part of this series, we take a look at investment, motivation and strategy:

Investment

Investing in reducing technical debt is accounted for as part of ongoing service operations and continuous improvements rather than as occasional capital investments.

To digitally transform is to embrace a transition from occasional steps forward to continuous improvement. Instead of capital investment delivering new capabilities every few years, successful organisations will have invested in the ability to routinely understand how well services perform, and to design, implement and roll-out improvements as business as usual – not waiting until the next project. Successful approaches allow a greater proportion of operational budget to be used in routinely tackling technical debt and modernising legacy systems on continual basis.

Motivation

Organisations, their staff and suppliers are invested in continual improvement and modernisation rather than maintaining the status quo.

Over time, a large legacy estate will spawn a growing ecosystem of people, skills, processes, and budgets that become tied to the working of that estate. Staff build careers around the knowledge and skills that are required to develop and operate the estate, whilst suppliers are eager to maintain product footprints, keeping challenger innovations at bay and ensuring a steady stream of relatively low-risk revenues.

These are significant forces of inertia which can only be overcome if the members of the ecosystem are invested in the benefits of change. This means, for instance, staff understanding how their careers will benefit from training in new technologies, suppliers being contracted in a manner that avoids lock-in and encourages innovation and buyers that are willing to invest in maintaining more diverse and flexible supply chains.

On occasion the provider of the legacy solution is best placed to support a programme of modernisation, yet this is often not the case. Successful organisations maintain relationships with a diverse group of suppliers that can support the transition away from legacy, avoiding the need to return to the original supplier or product suite simply through a perceived lack of choice or time.

Strategy

Understanding that a strategy is required to overcome all the barriers to change; any one of the barriers described above will drastically reduce the chances of creating sustainable success.

Key to success is leadership clearing the path ahead and ensuring none of the barriers outlined above are allowed to prevail. This requires a holistic approach that considers and addresses the cultural, commercial and operational barriers to change as much as the oft quoted technical barriers.

This in turn requires sponsorship and leadership beyond the office of the CIO and an end-to-end change strategy that has whole of Board engagement.  Our successful delivery of modernisation initiatives in both the public and private sectors has shown this end-to-end planning mindset to be a critical factor in leveraging the benefits of all the enablers we have discussed in recent weeks. 

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