You shouldn’t see legacy technology as an Achilles’ heel when it comes to taking advantage of the new digital economy, according to Nuxeo’s David Jones.
In computing terms ‘legacy systems’ are seen as outmoded. However, many are still used as integral systems because they serve core business needs. The old adage of ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ rings true here.
Enterprises are all too aware that legacy systems are not flexible enough to meet the demands of modern business because of their shortcomings in many areas. These issues include being complex and cumbersome for users, an inability to be configured to meet the specific needs of businesses, poor integration capabilities, and other issues that prevent companies from maximising the value of these solutions. But organisations hold on to them because they are the devil they know. Ripping out these systems and replacing them just isn’t practical in most cases and the potential disruption is just too stressful.
The challenge of legacy migrations
For companies that have committed to modernising their IT stack, migrating information from legacy systems is no easy task. In addition to the migration conundrum, it’s time intensive and expensive to test new technology platforms, not to mention the re-training of staff. With such a daunting proposition, it is little wonder that tried-and-tested systems stay in place well past their sell-by-date.
Legacy systems by their very nature represent big, long-term investments. The decision to migrate from them is a big one. Migrations are often complex and require detailed planning, which needs to cover everything from transition support, to interface and database compatibility, and inevitably change management. Moving mission critical applications needs to be achieved with the minimum of disruption to the day-to-day running of the business, often leading to running old and new systems in parallel during any transition, which increases cost and complexity. More often than not, migrations can run over schedule – leading to significant costs, user frustration, and delays.
These are some of the key reasons why enterprises prefer to stick with the systems they know so well. A lack of understanding and preparation from the very beginning can lead to migration failures and downtime. But instead of sending legacy systems out to pasture, there is a viable alternative.
One of the big hurdles with legacy IT systems is that they often operate in total isolation from other information systems in the business. The ideal scenario would be having access to the information managed within these legacy systems; and without having to rely on them to make the cogs turn for the rest of today’s digital infrastructure.
Of course, other systems can be plugged into legacy systems by way of application programmer interfaces or APIs which can expose the data in legacy systems. But to access directly all of the valuable data and functionality offered up by legacy systems they require custom-coding to replicate the system through a second interface. This is both budget heavy and time consuming. So it is little surprise that legacy systems tend to stay disconnected from other core business solutions.
A full view of the IT estate
Content services platforms (CSPs), however, have emerged as an effective approach to connecting disparate systems across the enterprise. Their ability to serve as the connective tissue that links legacy systems and content repositories together, while at the same time ensuring fast access to the single source of truth, is extremely appealing. It ensures that critical business content is always available and properly managed.
CSPs represent a shift away from monolithic, self-contained systems to a more connected and intelligent approach, where information is shared and utilised across the business, orchestrated in harmony with legacy systems. As a result, knowledge workers are empowered to access data from within legacy systems from a central hub, which ensures they are accessing the correct and most current version of any information asset.
This approach opens up a whole new world where content is actively used inside and outside the organisation’s walls. End-users, for example, can access customer invoicing details stored in the ERP system from their CRM application. Additional information and metadata management capabilities can be incorporated into existing platforms and applications.
Times are changing
Modern enterprises realise that a one-size-fits all approach no longer works or satisfies business requirements and users’ demands. Organisations want flexible, agile platforms that can provide access to multiple repositories in a secure and controlled manner. They also want to ensure that users can access content when and where they need it. But, many are not in a position to abandon their legacy systems. The beauty of CSPs, however, is that they can co-exist and expenditure made on legacy over the years isn’t lost.
Achieving a more holistic and connected IT environment
Understanding that a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to enterprise IT deployments just isn’t realistic is the first step. From there, it becomes a matter of identifying the right Content Services Platform that can seamlessly link with your existing business systems in a way that addresses your organisation’s specific needs.
In particular, look for a platform that is agile enough to deal with all information types – not just documents, but also videos, images, audio files, and other rich content types that are becoming an increasingly pervasive component of the modern information management landscape. Also, it’s important that the solution is ready for the cloud (even if you want it on-premise for now) for flexibility and scalability. Finally, identify platforms to consider that can be adapted to deliver a more personalised and intuitive user experience via customisation and self-service.
Enterprise information and the insight that can be derived from it is an extremely valuable asset for enterprises. It is critical, therefore, that they effectively manage this information to gain competitive advantage. If knowledge workers can access content in exactly the way they want via a CSP, legacy systems will no longer be seen as a barrier to digital advancement, but as a key component of your information management landscape.
The author is Director of Product Marketing at content services company Nuxeo
Nuxeo, developer of the leading, cloud-native Content Services Platform, is reinventing enterprise content management (ECM) and digital asset management (DAM). Nuxeo is fundamentally changing how people work with both data and content to realise new value from digital information. Its cloud-native platform has been deployed by large enterprises, mid-sized businesses and government agencies worldwide. Customers like Verizon, Electronic Arts, ABN Amro, and the Department of Defense have used Nuxeo’s technology to transform the way they do business. Founded in 2008, the company is based in New York with offices across the United States, Europe, and Asia. Learn more at www.nuxeo.com.