Legacy System Modernization, Be Bold for the Long Term, Deliver in the Short Term

Ana AndradeApplication ModernizationLeave a Comment

Legacy software systems remain ubiquitous today. Whether aware of them or not, the vast majority of general consumers interacts almost daily with organizations whose IT infrastructure is based on decades-old databases and applications. From a consumer protection and IT security/risk management standpoint, exposure to these often precarious systems poses a threat not just from data breaches, but can also represent an existential threat to the businesses themselves.

When faced with a bad user experience, a clumsy interface or repeated transactional errors, dissatisfied customers are quicker than ever to vote with their feet and pick a new provider. Millennials in particular think little of choosing a new vendor, supplier, service or information source if that organization can’t at least implement and offer some clear and sustainable improvements to the user experience. Tremendous swaths of market share can be eliminated overnight by failing to keep pace with today’s user expectations.

Loyalty must continually be earned. For organizations like banks, insurance and healthcare companies, this is why it’s important to have not only a long-term modernization strategy, but to be able to deliver short-term wins. You may not being doing all your business in the cloud just yet, but the longer you put it off, the more risk you face in alienating customers. You must at least begin to show progress in that direction before your customers find another provider.

Incremental and well-publicized improvements go a long way toward maintaining customer trust, and at least allow the business to stay on track with customers’ ever-evolving demands.

With a bank, for instance, a strategy that first delivers basic banking services via a mobile app, then evolves to more sophisticated management of mortgages and loans, then further morphs into delivering custom, consultative feedback, financial education and investment advice are best developed and delivered in a stepped process. An insurance provider can start with a mobile app that allows the user to get roadside assistance and report claims. From there, new features can be added such as account management, price comparisons, messaging, claim history, etc.

Showing real improvements, rather than waiting for a complete modernization overhaul to be fully baked, is a far greater trust-building technique than leaving the solution in the oven too long. Perfection can be the enemy of the good. Customers want the benefits now, and their patience is often too short to withstand long-haul core transformations before seeing the fruits of too-often empty promises.

Depending on the business, modernizing those systems can be handled on a piecemeal basis, by department or business unit, which is often the safest, stepped approach. However, for today’s consumer-facing organizations like banks, insurance companies and municipal and state governments, major transitions that involve wholesale IT retrenchment can take many years.

Most can’t afford the business disruptions caused by such an ambitious project approach. Even if core IT transformation is the strategy, showing and telling short-term successes and benefits are critical pieces to the process that support customer acceptance and support.

First and foremost, if your consumer-facing business has not yet launched a mobile-application or any type of mobilization into its software portfolio, you are officially behind the times. Not only is mobilization a major factor in Google rankings, but for many enterprise-level companies, having a mobile-enabled site or application can also be key to getting, and more importantly, keeping, customers. Banks, insurance agencies and the like are now almost defined by their ability to make themselves available anywhere, anytime.
We’ve been talking a lot about updating legacy systems and making the “big move” toward completely modernized, cloud-enabled systems. But, for companies that can’t completely drop everything and convert, there are short-term options they can embrace to improve systems immediately.

Security updates are also a key factor for businesses who can’t completely modernize their systems on a dime. A recent survey shows 63 percent of people now take measures to protect their personal online security. With more than half of the U.S. population taking personal protection measures, it’s critical, if not expected, that enterprise-level security systems are kept updated as well. Customers know there is risk, and they know that no one is immune. Show them how, why and what you’re doing on an ongoing, progressive basis. The old-school approach of not talking about such unpleasantries, or avoiding attention on them at all costs, is becoming more of a potential liability than a prudent communications strategy.

On the continuum of updates, where does your company rank? Are you at a standstill because you’re not ready to completely shift your software? If so, consider engaging short-term options to help you remain competitive.

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