Legacy Systems – How to Eat an Elephant

Carlos OliveiraApplication ModernizationLeave a Comment

Legacy Systems - How to Eat an Elephant

And so it continues. Those old legacy systems continue to eat 75-80% of IT budgets and prevent the business achieving its goals. Applications written in a language long forgotten, running on outdated hardware adding cost and convenient security loopholes for Hackers, Inc., continue to soak up resource and provide a formidable barrier to success.

But do they? Really?

If you believe the commentary, they most certainly do. Federal CIO Tony Scott said at the 2016 Brocade Federal Forum that federal government spends roughly 80% of its annual $80Bn IT budget on maintaining legacy systems.

According to Washington Technology, IT Modernization, “a huge topic in 2016”, will continue to be a top priority in 2017 with consumer demands and a citizen-centric approach joining the traditional modernization drivers of security and system shortcomings.

Yet, according to the results of a survey by SPS Commerce, Inc., legacy systems are the top factor hindering omni-channel execution in the retail sector.

And the DoD has spent billions on COTS (commercial-off-the-shelf) ERP systems to replace legacy systems that have yet to be de-commissioned (because the agencies concerned are not sure the COTS solution provides all of the required functionality) with a resultant increase in the workload of users.

In the UK, the government “decided” (we’ll come back to this later) a cost reduction driven lift-and-shift of all legacy systems into a consolidated data center was the answer and the Crown Hosting program was created in 2015. £700M later and very few legacy systems have actually been moved.

Why? And why did the DoD procure an ERP system that didn’t meet its needs? Probably because, in both cases, they didn’t “decide” what to do, they were “sold” what was in the best interest of their [trusted] advisor.

How can this happen? Why does it happen? It’s partly down to poor leadership (frankly) and the lack of innovation/risk-taking this engenders within their workforce. We wrote about this in our post “Out With The Old And…In With Old (The Innovation Challenge)” almost a year ago. You should read it, if only to watch the videos of Simon Sinek explaining what today’s leaders can learn from cavemen!

The second reason these intelligent organizations are making such poor decisions when it comes to managing their modernization programs goes to the title of this post and, well, just how do you eat an elephant?

And it is an elephant. Tony Scott, if anything, might have understated his 80%. After all, with the pace of technological change, what’s new today is old tomorrow. What may have taken 20-30 years to be considered outdated at the birth of the internet may now just take 2-3 years, if that. One of our more recent posts “Learning to Fish” covered the need for newly developed applications to be fed immediately into refactoring programs to maintain code hygiene and lessen/delay the need for major root and branch modernization in future.

So which bite will you take first? If your shop is full of legacy applications that you need to do “something” with, then the best course of action is a regimented program to decide what do with each. It’s not as hard as it may initially seem and it is worth the effort. After all it will keep you away from the vested interests of your “trusted” advisors and all of the wrong kind of headlines.

Start here by downloading our process for breaking the shackles of legacy systems.

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