Legacy CTRM System Modernisation: How to Enable the Enterprise for a new Digital Future

Step 1 – Proper Preparation

Software doesn’t get better with age.

Just think about it. There is a good reason your new laptop runs a new operating system. Obviously, your current computer is more powerful and more capable than the one you owned 10 years ago. Similarly, the business you run is not the same and using outdated and underperforming software to manage it is analogous to running Mac OS X 10.0 (Cheetah) on your new MacBook Pro.

What is a legacy system?

Do you remember the last time you saw a pager? That technology is not as dead as you might have thought. In fact, your own life might depend on it as pagers remain a mainstay communication device in healthcare. Aside from being outdated, pager technology is a huge source of expense. So why is it still so widely used?

The answer is simple: Some systems are just hard to replace – especially the ones that handle vital business processes within an organisation.

Pagers in healthcare are not the only example of such a phenomenon. Commonly referred to as a “legacy” system/technology, it is relatively widespread in a number of other industries, including banking, finance, insurance, and transportation.

A legacy application is “an information system that may be based on outdated technologies, but is critical to day-to-day operations.”

So why bother about modernising them then?

Many of them depend on antiquated programming languages, have hardware or software support issues, and operate with security vulnerabilities.

Legacy systems require modernisation. Based on our research CTRM products on average have a five-year lifecycle.

However, a legacy system is not always defined by its age. It might be due to the lack of support or its inability to meet the needs of a business or organisation that a system is considered to be legacy. Such software is usually difficult (or impossible) to maintain, support, improve, or integrate with the new systems due to its architecture, underlying technology, or design. 

That said, among the CIOs we surveyed this year, more than half have to dedicate from 40 to 60 percent of their time to managing legacy IT instead of shifting towards strategic activities. We’ve concluded that legacy technology is a significant barrier to digital modernisation.

Preparing for your Digital Future

Despite the problems and risks related to outdated software, some companies are still lacking legacy-modernisation initiatives. Most of them would only consider re-engineering the current solution in case of an emergency, such as a complete system outage. We have however seen a positive shift towards innovation. When in 2020 only 5 percent of CIOs considered themselves “digital innovators,” 2022 shows that already 32 percent of them claimed to play a leading role in organisation-wide innovation. 

I wonder what may have happened globally in the past couple of years to nudge this into an upward trend?????

To bridge the gap between the current offerings and customer expectations, companies need to rethink their business models, making them digital-ready. Legacy software is only one aspect of the problem. Sometimes, a far bigger issue is the mindset that comes with it. That is why proving a business case for software modernisation is the first challenge to be faced by any initiating party.

The business case for software modernisation

Why modernise legacy systems? The following benefits prove that legacy-system modernisation is a vital part of overall business digitisation.

Nevertheless, despite all its benefits, modernisation is often met with resistance.

Considering the challenges and risks

Two major arguments are typically used when talking about a software modernisation initiative. Those are the time and costs involved.

Indeed, a solution that took a team of developers years to implement cannot be re-created in a week, even if you hire twice as many developers to handle the task. 

Challenges that derive from legacy modernisation include the following:

  • Personnel is usually unwilling to adjust to management changes. Motivation, training, and coaching will press them in that direction but will entail additional risk and cost.
  • If there are multiple legacy systems within one corporation, their modernisation should be articulated and prioritised in a corporate program that considers the required effort and time window for each system individually. On the contrary, simultaneous modernisation may lead to a catastrophic impact that is not easily absorbed. Come up with a sound strategy & roadmap and do not, do not, do not have knee-jerk reactions that lead to re-prosecuting your strategic decisions!! Everyone needs to be on board and on the same page. Flip-flopping is a major risk so be mindful of it.
  • If you are not doing a full replacement of an app, legacy code should be handled with extra care, even if some pieces of it can appear to be no longer relevant and in need of replacement. For the same reason, it is important to make sure while migrating that the underlying software will comply with the new data interchange rules and requirements dictated by client applications and support resources.
  • Having to deal with countless lines of code that only address a given corporate process can be a real headache, especially if there is a skills shortage.

Besides these challenges, there are multiple risks to avoid. Here are some of the reasons for legacy modernisation effort failure:

  1. The organisation inadvertently adopts a flawed or incomplete strategy.

  2. The organisation makes inappropriate use of outside consultants and outside contractors.

  3. The workforce is tied to old technologies with inadequate training programs.

  4. The organisation does not have its legacy system under control.

  5. There is too little elicitation and validation of requirements.

  6. Software architecture is not a primary modernisation consideration.

  7. There is no notion of a separate and distinct “modernisation process.”

  8. There is inadequate planning or inadequate resolve to follow the plans.

  9. Management lacks long-term commitment.

  10. Management predetermines technical decisions far too prematurely.

Successful modernisation programs require a solid strategy and great attention to detail. 

Conclusion

Today’s post has been a light touch focused on preparation for a modernisation strategy. My next post will start to point you toward some additional best practices on how to execute a well-founded strategy.

Regardless of your chosen approach and techniques, software modernisation is a complex, labour-intensive, and risky process. If done well, the results are well worth the risk.

Top analysts are predicting that digital modernisation will attain macroeconomic scale over the next three to four years, changing the way enterprises operate and reshaping the global economy. 

More than half the global economy turns digital by 2023 requiring new species of enterprise to compete and thrive.”

To live up to the demands of the new digital modernisation economy, organisations have to cease relying on outdated software and modernise their core technologies. Enterprises will benefit only when they stop seeing modernisation as a one-time project and embrace it as a continuous improvement cycle.

“Change is now the norm. Just as our clients set a course based on their understanding of the technology landscape, that landscape changes. CXOs must accept that change is constant and work out how to get on the front foot – to shape change rather than being controlled by it.” 

Jason Novobranc, Chief Operating Officer, Implementary

How can we help?

Taking advantage of third-party expertise might be of great help. We at Implementary handle every aspect of legacy-system modernisation: from analysing the current solution, developing a solid business strategy, and prioritising the features to rebuilding your product from scratch, using the latest technologies and architecture solutions.

How can you connect with us?

We’d love to hear about your journey. Did reflecting on legacy system modernisation help?

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About the Author

Jason Novobranec is Implementary’s Chief Operating Officer.

With over 20 years of Consulting, Program Management & Senior Leadership experience, Jason has delivered initiatives for large multi-national / multi-regional organisations as well as SME’s and is an expert in shaping solutions to fit a customer’s project needs.