Legacy systems generally are built from extremely robust hardware and software, which in many cases well support the critical business processes of the company, thanks to frequent updates and vendor support. But in some cases, the hardware is no longer supported by the vendor. Besides the lack of support, there are other reasons companies may want to replace their old systems with new ones. By reviewing your current IT system, a few key questions can come to your mind:
Will the current system allow you to grow or change your business operations in some manner?
You reach a point where the volume of transactions exceeds your processing power or the software required to do the job just cannot run on the old platform.
Is the current system adaptable to web and mobile access?
Can the current system provide your customers with a web portal for checking their bank accounts? Can the current system support mobile device access so that your employees can log into the system when away from the office? Is such an access important to your organization?
Can the current system integrate with the other applications or systems you plan to deploy in the future?
Certainly many applications that run on legacy systems are very efficient at performing a particular task, yet they are not integrated with other applications. Therefore, companies feel the need to upgrade to newer technology when they require additional capabilities. This can include EDI (Electronic Data Interface) features, integration with the customer's IT system, integration with mobile communications systems, etc.
How cost-effective is it to maintain the old systems?
Maintaining an old system can become a lot more expensive than replacing it with new hardware and software. Also, it requires lot of time spent to fix software issues. Also considering that a lack of security patches within old systems may introduce vulnerabilities that can put the system at risk of being compromised.
IT Staff retiring
This is a key concern because newcomers are not trained on outdated computer languages. This means that when the legacy professionals retire, they cannot be replaced, and even worse, hardware vendors are, in many cases, no longer offering support for their legacy products. If you cannot get support you need on hardware and software, you have no choice but consider upgrading.
So are there any reasons you would hang on to your legacy systems?
There are a couple of reasons why maintaining a legacy system may be worthwhile.
Customized solutions: If you have built a very customized system that has been adapted for your industry, then replacing it could be detrimental. Moving to a generic software package for example, might hurt your business's competitive advantage.
Problems with change: You are likely to face resistance whenever you implement a change, especially when several business units will be impacted.
Modernization as an option too: It can be cheaper and more convenient to update your existing system instead of implementing a full-blown change. It may be possible to negotiate a special support agreement with the vendor, even if the system has reached the end of its support.
So is there a middle path?
If you are thinking of replacing a legacy system, you may not need a complete replacement. Rather, service-oriented architecture, known as SOA, will help companies introduce new software in stages. Such an incremental approach poses a lower risk. However, if the old system cannot support essential new technology, then a complete replacement might be necessary.