How to Break Up With Your Legacy System


Kevin ShulerCEO of Quandary Consulting Group

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Every legacy system starts off as a valuable solution to a company’s needs. But maintaining these assets slowly becomes more costly. Their offerings diminish. And soon, they’re simply a burden. Add to that increasing customer demands coupled with new innovations, and your relationship will slowly begin to fracture. After a while, you start to daydream about newer options. From there, a break up with your legacy system is inevitable.

Article 6 Minutes
How to Break Up With Your Legacy System

You know your relationship with your legacy system won’t improve. It’s the nature of technology. Over time, better options reveal themselves. Sure, you’ve been with those core applications for a while, maybe even since the beginning of your company. But when it’s time, it’s time.

Still, moving on from your legacy system to something better isn’t as simple as saying, “it’s not you, it’s me.” It requires a well-thought-out approach. You need a strategy in place to keep things from being “messy.” Knowing why you’re ready to move on and how to do it is essential if you want a smooth break up with your current legacy system.

The problem with legacy systems

Sometimes referred to as “the Achilles heel of digital transformation”, legacy systems serve as a roadblock to innovation. These systems are often so entrenched in a company that they’re synonymous with how a company does business. This locks companies into dated practices.

Rather than keep current and competitive, legacy systems force businesses to adapt to their services, not the other way around. As a result, these businesses lose their competitive edge.

Legacy systems are a security risk as well. While they may have been prime in their time, as manufacturers create new systems, they tend to drop support for older ones. Without support in place, these systems grow increasingly vulnerable to costly security breaches. Suddenly, a single attack from a hacker puts your entire customer database at risk.

It’s hard to maintain compliance with older systems as well. GDPR gives customers the right to protect their data. And companies have to comply with this or face huge fines. But augmenting legacy systems to meet regulatory demands can be time-consuming and expensive. Developers build newer systems with regulatory compliance and security in mind, a far easier approach.

Sign it’s time to move on

The biggest sign that it’s time to move on is when your legacy system has grown too expensive to maintain. At some point, the complexity of the system combined with an increasing amount of technical debt makes it more expensive to run than it’s worth. Sure, legacy software may have started out as a solid investment, but all technology grows dated over time.

Other warning signs that it’s time to leave your legacy system:

  • It uses code so old that you struggle to find qualified programmers willing to work with it. And those who do work with it wonder why it’s still around.
  • Your core system doesn’t easily integrate with new applications. As a result, you have stacks of ruinous spreadsheets scattered around to fill the gaps.
  • The system doesn’t provide the necessary features to help keep your organization competitive. Solutions often involve complex and expensive workarounds that still fall short of what other platforms promise.
  • The vendor stopped adding updates to dead software. You watch other organizations adopt newer platforms that provide business-defining attributes.
  • The legacy system no longer fits into the future of your organization. It limits what you can do and where you can go. In fact, it may even drive your company down a dangerous path.
  • There’s a lack of mobility. Older systems simply can’t keep up with the agility of newer offerings. This is an issue with more and more businesses leaning on mobile services.
  • It’s become a confusing spider web of technical debt. Years of patchwork can leave you in so much technical debt that it’s often easier and cheaper to simply walk away.

The process: upgrading from your legacy system

Switching to a new system isn’t an easy process. You have to weigh risk and cost. Downtime can mean lost revenue. And choosing the wrong solution could leave you tangled in a broken mess, wishing you’d stuck to your old, broken application suite. If you’re going to move on from your legacy system, you need to have a plan in place.

Choose a new system with the customer in mind. Making the decision to break up with your legacy system shouldn’t be done lightly. You also shouldn’t do it simply to “keep up with the Joneses.” Instead, you need to focus on what the new system will do for the customer.

One critical misstep many companies make when attempting a digital transformation is that they don’t have a clear understanding of what the end result will be. They update for the sake of updating. And while that gets them newer offerings, it can make for a complicated mess on the coding side of things. It can also confuse the business model and what the overall mission is.

Your goal should be to work back from how you want to transform your organization to deliver a new customer experience. Figure out what you want to deliver and what you need to make that happen. Only then should you search for an alternative solution to your current systems.

When you’re looking to modernize, you need to consider workflows as well. Failing to take into account how the new system will affect employees will backfire. When staff don’t back your system change, they’ll often revert to old ways, leaving your new system mostly abandoned. Or worse, inspire more instances of shadow IT.

Mapping all of this out is your best way to ensure that the system you choose meets both your business and customer demands. Moving on from your legacy system isn’t simply finding something new, it’s about making your business better and more competitive while positioning it to be a leader in your industry. Only with clearly mapped out expectations can you make that happen.

Consider low-code as a replacement for legacy platforms

You’ll need to be patient and open to new solutions when trying to break up with your legacy system. But you shouldn’t feel forced to adopt a highly-customized, expensive, and complex solution. With low-code, you can rebuild your technical assets using minimal code and expense.

Low-code offers an innovative way to create custom build solutions that are tailored to your business. It empowers staff to take an active role in the systems your organization adopts. As a result, they’ll be far more willing to accept these new systems; they’ll have contributed to its construction, after all. And because low code is highly customizable, you’ll be able to tailor your business to fit your customer’s needs, not force them to adopt an ageing system.

Low-code can also function as both a replacement for and a hybrid approach to legacy systems. You can build APIs, connecting old systems with newer offerings and bridge gaps for smooth data migration. This approach is often cheaper, faster, and carries less technical debt than many custom builds.

Don’t compromise: know when it’s time to move on

You’re not stuck with your legacy system. The digital environment is increasingly competitive, and there’s always a better version of your ageing system out there. Whether you embark on an expensive rebuild or choose a more flexible, low-code alternative, you have the power to design your business for the future.

Holding onto your current system, one that demands more while offering less, simply isn’t a solution. In fact, it’s the worst kind of relationship to be in. Your legacy system may feel like it’s built for your business, but that’s in the past. And the convenience of that faux customization comes at too great a cost. Recognize the signs, make a plan, and when you’re ready, break up with your legacy system.

Kevin Shuler

Kevin Shuler is the CEO of Quandary Consulting Group, a team of integration and application specialists that works with any-sized business to streamline workflows. They leverage the power of low-code to level the playing field in an increasingly digitized and competitive marketplace.


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