How your legacy system is holding you back (and what to do about it)

We’re living in an era defined by innovation. The speed at which technology moves means that software that was cutting-edge a few years ago may now be obsolete.

Within what felt like the blink of an eye, MP3 players were replaced by smartphones, with Steve Jobs proudly proclaiming the iPhone was “the best iPod we’ve ever made”.

Yet, where consumers are quick to embrace innovation, organisations struggle to let go – particularly when it comes to their legacy system.

But why?

Often, because decision-makers within the business favour familiarity over the unknown of starting again; they’re scared of the cost involved and the disruption it will cause.

The truth is, sticking with your legacy system is a symptom of short-term thinking; it may provide some benefit, but it’ll be short-lived.

An over reliance on ageing hardware and software will cost you more in operational and maintenance costs, and ultimately, it will prevent your business from growing.

These are the ways in which your legacy system is holding you back and the steps you can take to easily replace it.

Your “thatched roof” is leaking

For any business to be profitable, there needs to be an emphasis on cost-control management. That’s just a fact.

Even if your business isn’t coming in over budget year after year, any unnecessary expense eats into your profits.

Some costs, like the price of rent you pay for your office space or the cost of materials from a supplier, are out of your control. There’s nothing you can do about it.

But one cost that is firmly within your control is the system you choose to use.

Persisting with your legacy system may not seem like such a big deal, but it can soon become a financial burden. Most programming languages or technologies that used to support legacy systems have become extinct. Not only that, but the skills required to fix any issues will be in short supply, which means shelling out more for niche expertise.

Think of it this way. A thatched roof will cost a lot more than a standard tiled roof. It’s a highly skilled service and there aren’t many people left who possess that specialist skill set.

Your legacy system is the equivalent of a thatched roof. 

But that also means you’re far more likely to develop a “leak”.

Legacy systems also come with outdated security frameworks, which means you’re essentially leaving the door to your business unlocked for hackers to enter and help themselves.

A lack of cybersecurity readiness leaves you vulnerable, and any setback could result in data losses and lost revenue for your business.

Stunting growth

To keep moving forward and growing as a business, you need to be responsive, nimble and agile.

Continuing with your legacy system is like carrying a weight on your back whilst trying to complete an obstacle course. Sure, you might be able to carry it, but every step forward is a struggle and takes double the amount of time it should.

One of the main roadblocks that businesses encounter with legacy systems is a failure to innovate and grow. Their legacy system limits what they’re capable of achieving. Every change or business decision is caveated with how it may affect their legacy system.

This need to integrate new technology with older systems results in drawn out development cycles. It actively limits growth, with businesses missing out on valuable opportunities to expand their reach or market share, impacting profitability and competitiveness.

In today’s tech-driven landscape, data is the currency which most businesses rely on – it’s a business’ most valuable asset.

By using a legacy system to store it, your ability to access it is severely hampered, and there’s a strong chance the data you’re storing in multiple systems don’t communicate with each other.

This means you can’t extract insights about how your business is performing currently, or make well-informed decisions about the direction and trends you should be targeting in future.

Experience suffers on all fronts

Legacy systems impact every aspect of your business – especially when it comes to the experience you can deliver to users, be they employees or customers.

First, let’s take a look at how they affect employee experiences.

Enterprise applications are highly complex and this means the user experience is likely to be negative. Poor UX means that employees will struggle to use the software properly, which will prevent them from carrying out tasks efficiently and achieving their goals.

Not only will using legacy software slow down productivity among existing employees, but it will also impact the onboarding process for new ones. Training new recruits on a legacy system is a tedious and time consuming task – and it can also indicate to them that your business is reluctant to embrace change.

This, in turn, has a knock-on effect for customers, because when employee experience suffers, so does the experience your customers receive.

Digital transformation is all about empowering users. It’s critical for businesses to supply customers with the best possible experience and continuously seek to improve and optimise this experience. Legacy systems make this increasingly difficult to do.

If customers are forced to choose between using your outdated technology or software, or something that’s up-to-date and familiar to them with a competitor, there’s no prizes for guessing which way they’ll go.

The warnings signs

Breaking up is never easy. It involves saying goodbye to something that was integral to how you functioned on a daily basis, and you wonder whether life will ever be the same again.

But just like that old relationship that you had outgrown, holding on to your legacy system will only do more damage than good.

So – what are the telltale signs that it’s time to ditch your legacy system?

  • System instability: developments in operating systems, coding practices and new browsers, will eventually lead to compatibility issues. Even if your system still works, it will run slower and use more resources.
  • Integration issues: since legacy systems use older programming languages, different system architecture and design, it will become harder to integrate it with new systems without investing in bespoke coding (and there’s no guarantee this will be successful).
  • Maintenance expertise in short supply: as we touched on earlier, the older your system gets, the less likely that the skills you need to run support and maintenance work will be available. This means you’ll have to invest in specialist expertise that won’t come cheap.

How to modernise your legacy system

A major factor that explains why business owners are so reluctant to ditch their legacy system is because of how long and complex the process is perceived to be.

In reality, it’s a lot more straightforward than you may think.

At 6B, we specialise in helping organisations convert and migrate massive amounts of data onto a platform that will better serve their business needs. From healthcare providers responsible for thousands of patient records, to SMEs looking for a system to support scaling up, we provide a seamless migration with minimal disruption to business workflows.

Here are the three ways we will typically handle a legacy system for our clients:

  • Replatform: this approach involves making minimal changes and moving your legacy system to a new platform. It doesn’t change the code or function of the current system, and provides minimal disruption to business operations.
  • Extend & migrate: this approach focuses on using what’s already in place as a foundation, and building on top of it rather than starting from scratch. We extend your system and introduce new features gradually, so it carries a low risk to your business operations and your budget.
  • Rebuild: this approach consists of rebuilding the entire system or core parts of the software. This is the most extreme of the three options, but it will future-proof your system and allow you to rediscover your competitive edge.

Is your legacy system preventing your business from reaching its full potential?

At 6B, we help clients across a spectrum of sectors migrate vast quantities of information seamlessly, cost effectively, and without causing disruption to their day-to-day operations. If you’d like to speak to one of our migration experts, get in touch with us!

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