Digital transformation is a concept on many CEOs’ lips. It promises innovation and creativity, streamlining and efficiency, the edge on competitors and a better experience for staff and customers alike.
But there are plenty of barriers to achieving digital transformation – not least the prospect of integrating legacy technology systems with newer ones. In too many organisations, the misconception still exists that introducing new digital tools and processes requires a complete removal and replacement of old systems, and with it an abandoning of all that initial investment.
Not so. By following some simple principles, you can make your legacy systems part of a digital transformation strategy.
Undertake an assessment
First, you need to thoroughly understand the current state of your legacy systems – a task that has gone unconsidered for too long in too many organisations. ‘Current state’ means a few different things. It means understanding precisely what value those systems have to your business – that is, which essential day-to-day operations they underpin, and which other business systems depend on them. It means understanding the maturity levels of those systems, whether they are still supported by their vendors and whether they interface easily with more modern applications. And it means understanding the costs associated with those legacy systems. How much is spent on maintenance, and how much would an upgrade or replacement cost? How much would system failurecost?
Only once you have all of this information can you begin to make a clear plan for incorporating those legacy systems in your digital strategy, making informed decisions as to which elements can be replaced altogether, which need updating or integrating with other elements and eve, potentially, which systems you might leave as they are for now.
Identify integration points
Once you have established which legacy systems areactively going to be integrated into more up-to-date digital systems, you need to identify the points where that integration can best take place.
Given that efficiency should always be front of mind, tis can be a suitable point to implement a business rule management system (BRMS), if you do not already have one. These provide a single centralised and consolidated management platform for rule assets, and place control in the hands of actual business users. They are able to define and edit their domain rules without affecting the application development code and without involving the IT department.
Automate where possible
Where legacy applications are truly business-critical, automation can be truly invaluable in lightening the maintenance and management load. Older software may include regular manual processes for closing out data, for example, but introducing automation can remove those cumbersome tasks, simultaneously reducing the management burden and increasing efficiency.
The right tool for the job
Some of the most common tools used for legacy system modernisation include service layers, data access layers (DALs) and application program interfaces (APIs). Service layers can operate as the middleware between your legacy systems and newer applications by translating or transforming data between them. This enables functions from your legacy applications to be extended without a full rip and replace.
DALs work by abstracting databases and therefore enabling developers to get simplified access to key information and switch between different sources. By separating the logical data model from the business layer, DALs enable the logical data model to be amended without affecting the business layer. Finally, APIs can make functions of the legacy system available to outside integration in a simplified and streamlined way, allowing performance and flexibility with even old software applications.
To explore further how you can best incorporate your own legacy applications into a digital transformation strategy, get in touch with us today.