Over the last decade, Enterprise IT has evolved at an unprecedented rate, with each passing year introducing innovative new technologies and solutions. Despite the rate of progress however, many organisations remain committed to running outdated legacy systems, which are thought to account for around 30% of the workplace technology we interact with.
So, what do we mean by ‘legacy technology?’ Legacy technology has no strict definition, but it generally refers to digital systems considered outdated by modern standards. Such systems are likely to integrate poorly with modern equivalents and may no longer be supported or maintained by their original developers. They are likely to segregate data, and provide no convenient option for the introduction of automation, resulting in inefficient, clunky workflows that demand a high degree of user interaction and manual data handling.
Here at 4TC, we provide IT support, management and solutions to SMEs across London and the Southeast. Our mission is to empower businesses with secure, optimised and reliable technology that supports sustained business growth and success. One of the ways we deliver on these aims is by helping businesses identify ways to tackle persistent challenges and issues using the best modern solutions. This practice is otherwise known as ‘Digital Transformation.’
What is a Digital Transformation?
A digital transformation is a process or strategy that leverages advancements in technology to fundamentally change how a business operates and delivers value to its customers. The objective of digital transformation is to improve efficiency, competitiveness, customer satisfaction, security and innovation, in an age when digital adoption is so integral to business success.
We accept that the term ‘digital transformation’ can seem a bit misleading or ambiguous, after all, every business uses digital technology in one way or another. It’s best to think of a digital transformation as an ongoing, evolutionary process rather than a fixed state. Your business embraces digital transformation by considering inefficiencies, bottlenecks and pain points across your digital environment, and devising ways to tackle these issues by aligning processes with up-to-date solutions that perform to the standards today’s employees and customers expect.
For many businesses, slow, inefficient, and poorly integrated legacy technology is one of the greatest stumbling blocks to undertaking a comprehensive digital transformation.
Why is Legacy Technology So Problematic?
Some of the legacy solutions still used by businesses today can trace their roots all the way back to the 70s, 80s and 90s. In those early days of digital evolution, the capabilities available to developers, and as a result, the priorities of the developers themselves, were very different to those of today. The result is applications and programmes that fall significantly short of modern performance and security standards, and that fail to offer the features, capabilities and integrations today’s users expect.
Despite the obvious shortcomings, legacy systems remain entrenched in the operations of many SMEs, underpinning some of their most critical functions and processes. There is a natural reluctance among many business owners to explore a replacement for these systems, with concerns often expressed about the cost, disruption, risks and learning curve involved in the migration process. As we’ll explore in our next blog, many of these fears are unfounded, with modern alternatives to legacy technologies offering low-impact deployment, minimal upfront costs and intuitive user interfaces that require little in the way of staff training.
Let’s now look at 6 key reasons your business should consider a replacing its legacy technology sooner rather than later:
Many of the legacy applications still in use today date back to the latter decades of the 20th century. This was a period of rapid change, but one in which the cyber security landscape was vastly different to how it is today. Software developers in those days, focussed on speed of delivery, often rushing out programmes that contained significant code flaws and security vulnerabilities. Often, little consideration was given to cyber security, in fact, it could be argued that even Microsoft didn’t take security seriously until the early 2000s.
This culture of cyber security complacency coupled with software development practices that prioritised speed of delivery over code integrity, resulted in systems laced with security vulnerabilities, and programmes that lack the security controls and protocols today’s hostile threat landscape necessitates.
Using unsupported software is not only risky from a data security standpoint, it can also present distinct maintenance challenges and heighten business continuity risks.
Outdated coding languages, like COBOL for instance, are becoming increasingly difficult to support, as professionals familiar with it are retiring out of the industry. As such skills become rarer, they subsequently become more expensive, resulting in growing maintenance costs over time.
Maintenance struggles become particularly acute when business-critical faults that require urgent attention arise. If such a scenario were to develop, you could find yourself struggling to locate an engineer with the niche skills and knowledge required to reinstate your vital systems. In a worst-case scenario, this could leave you without the applications you need to run your business and serve your customers effectively, for a prolonged period of time.
A data silo refers to a depository of information that sits in isolation, lacking the ability to be easily shared and integrated with other digital systems or departments within an organisation. Data silos present efficiency challenges and inhibit a business’s ability to harness data as a means to drive value creation.
Many legacy systems were developed in a time when data analysis was only common practice among larger companies, and when manual data handling was simply considered an unavoidable fact-of-life. As such many systems feature no cross-platform compatibility by default, isolating strategically valuable information, and providing no option for data transfer between systems other than slow, inefficient manual data entry. Siloed data stands as a barrier to collaboration, damages productivity, prohibits the use of business process automation and makes it more difficult to leverage insights from data across your business.
Many legacy applications are incompatible with modern IT infrastructure, and as such, require archaic hardware to be maintained to support it. As this hardware ages, components begin slowing down and performance issues escalate into recurring system outages that hamper business productivity and damage staff morale.
Additionally, outdated hardware is less likely to support or integrate with modern security tools, leaving the data stored in legacy systems more vulnerable to cyber-attacks and data breaches.
Continuing to operate aging hardware to support your legacy applications could therefore be subjecting your data to an unacceptable level of risk, and leave staff struggling with buggy, slow and unreliable technology that falls well below modern performance standards.
Damage to Your Business’s image
Legacy systems are rarely easy on the eye. They look old fashioned because they are old fashioned, often featuring dated user interfaces that lack the finesse and crisp graphics found on modern systems. Using a legacy system in any capacity, be it public-facing or not, may portray your business as stuck-in-the-past and reluctant to innovate, damaging your image, and eroding confidence in your service or product offering.
Dated technology can also impact employee satisfaction. Slow, unreliable and unintuitive technology can leave staff feeling demoralised, and can make it harder to deliver a high-quality customer experience, particularly in embarrassing situations where customers are aware of the issues and limitations of your technology.
By operating legacy technology, you leave your business vulnerable to reputational damage that could see you lose the trust of customers, and you run the risk of missing out on new opportunities and revenue streams.
Compliance Becomes an Uphill Struggle
Depending on the type of information your legacy technology hosts, you could find it very difficult to take the steps necessary to achieve compliance with data protection regulations like UK GDPR.
Under such regulations, data controllers are required to defend the integrity, confidentiality, and availability of personal information, using a range of technical and organisational controls and measures, including the likes of firewalls, anti-malware measures, user access controls, data backups and rigorous authentication protocols. Due to a lack of centralised oversight and widespread compatibility issues with modern security tools, legacy technology makes satisfying the requirements of leading data protection regimes an uphill struggle. This could leave sensitive data susceptible to misuse, loss, theft, accidental deletion, or unauthorised access, and could result in fines issued against your organisation for non-compliance.
From security vulnerabilities that expose data to online threats, to data silos that present obstacles to automation and collaboration, legacy technology can represent a serious barrier to running a secure, productive, resilient and compliant operation that supports the growth ambitions of your business. By embracing digital transformation, you create a synergy between your technology processes and people, enabling a productive, secure and streamlined workplace.
In our next article we introduce some of the compelling modern alternatives to legacy technology and explore some of the benefits that businesses can unleash by undertaking a digital transformation.
4TC Managed IT Services – Uniting People, Processes and Technology
Secure, stable and optimised IT infrastructure is critical to the success of all businesses in our information age. 4TC helps businesses across London and the Southeast realise their potential through the delivery of expertly managed IT services and support, and solutions that solve business challenges by achieving perfect alignment between people, processes and technology. Get assistance with your IT challenges today by getting in touch, we’ll be glad to assist you!