The Ugly Truth: Five Tell-Tale Signs that You Stuck with Legacy Systems

You can’t win an F1 race riding a bullock cart—it’s time we recognize that.

Legacy is a wonderful thing when it comes to wills, culture, and people. But in your IT ecosystem, it is an absolute, undeniable deal-breaker and a pain that grows over time. Especially as IT forms the backbone of business operations today. Critical infrastructure gaps, a result of decades of underinvestment, poor maintenance, and the instinct to ‘leave things alone,’ can lead to unprecedented operational breakdowns. This became frighteningly apparent when the pandemic ravaged the global economy, and companies were left scrambling to stay viable.

The sudden rush towards modernization and digitization resulted in a new mandate for modern CIOs—aligning IT investments with business goals. And while research has found that enterprises spent more than half (57%) of their IT budgets on maintenances and support, application modernization is gaining prominence. That said, companies often fail to realize that legacy systems are holding them back. And the cost and productivity impact is incredible—manual processes, unsupported systems, poor security and user experience, and limited innovation.

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Here are hidden pitfalls that can help identify if you are struggling with legacy systems.

Integration and upgrades are a challenge. At a time when digital tech is transforming ways of working, if your enterprise still relies on legacy IT systems, there will be significant hurdles in going digital and evolving to address dynamic business challenges. Integrating disparate legacy systems with new-tech solutions (think cloud, SaaS) is also a key reason many digital transformation initiatives fail. And mobile compatibility is almost non-existent with outdated systems and applications. Besides, poor integration invariably creates data silos within the organization, with different departments unable to access the data they need. IT systems must always be compatible with business growth and versatile enough to integrate new software and systems for better performance.

Your technical debt is piling on. Maintaining large outdated platforms and architecture is a daunting task on any given day. It eats into your IT budgets and has several overheads and hidden costs that hamper your company’s success. And while you may save money in the short-term with a ‘band-aid effect,’ it will have a substantial impact on your top and bottom line in the long run. Besides, finding the right people who understand your system can be a huge challenge for your HR teams: the older your IT infrastructure, the less common the knowledge required to operate and maintain it. Operating obsolete systems also have a detrimental effect on your organization’s sustainability goals, does not facilitate new revenue streams, and runs up massive technical debt.

User experience is a nightmare. Enhancing processes and capabilities to remain competitive is fundamental to a robust tech strategy. But legacy systems are typically inflexible and find it extremely difficult to adapt to market dynamics. Today’s tech-savvy customer expects interactions with a digital enterprise, and your employees need digital tools to serve this customer expectation to stay competitive. With advancements in user interfaces, your users—employees and customers—expect an experience akin to what they are used to on their phones and laptops, which your current systems may not be able to provide. Dealing with an archaic system will deplete the user experience and ensure that you quickly fall far behind the competition.

IT (in)security is wearing you down. Industry research estimates pegged the average cost of remediating a ransomware attack at a staggering $761,106. This is especially worrying given the meteoric growth in cyber-attacks since 2020—ransomware incidents grew by a whopping 105% in 2021 alone. If your business operates on unsupported legacy systems, the stop gap-fixes may make you a prime target, resulting in you running a high risk of adding to these statistics. Outdated infrastructure falls painfully short when it comes to accommodating the latest security best practices such as single-sign-on, multifactor authentication, and role-based access. Lately, migrating to a cloud environment is emerging as a go-to option for organizations, given its strong security capabilities.

You miss out on tech trends that drive productivity. As technology has advanced, new digital solutions are available today that deliver significantly higher efficiencies through process automation, data intelligence and actionable insights, predictive analytics, and behavioral science. Your enterprise should be able to leverage tech megatrends, including artificial intelligence, machine learning, IoT, robotic process automation, chatbots, cloud computing, and more to drive revenues. But this becomes tricky when you have the hurdle of legacy infrastructure to overcome. Besides being near-impossible to integrate with digital systems, legacy architecture also creates technology and data silos within the same enterprise and prevents them from fully leveraging the potential of digital tech.

Taking Charge: It’s not too late to Modernize with the Right Approach and Tools

While modernization may seem like a daunting task, the picture is not all grim. An industry survey found that 89% of all companies have either adopted or plan to adopt a digital-first business strategy, and spending on digital transformation is projected to reach a massive $1.8 trillion in 2022. The first step to acknowledge that you have a problem. Once that hurdle is crossed, it is only a matter of time. The urgency to ensure digitalization is set.

With the right modernization strategy, tools, and resources, businesses can take an iterative and incremental approach to their upgrades based on business priorities. A three-pronged framework that helps you identify if you want to extend, refactor, or re-build existing applications will put your modernization journey on the right trajectory. It will help ensure minimal business disruption and drive digital transformation that strikes the right balance between your priorities: quick-win innovation and core modernization.

Note: This article was originally published in DataQuest India

If you are looking to accelerate your digital transformation journey, low-code platforms can speed up the process by up to 10X. Read our blog on Five Ways How Low-Code Drives Transformation.


Tushar Panpaliya

Head of OutSystems Practice, Aaseya

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