Legacy IT Systems Digital Transformation?

Is Legacy IT a bottleneck for Digital Transformation?

In Digital Transformation we rely on an organisation’s IT. But they are involved as late as possible, because no one wants to bother them with just “ideas”. While digital innovation is getting up to speed, information technology is falling more and more behind.

Spirits that we’ve cited

IT departments always seem to be low on resources. They have to maintain vast and frail system landscapes which have been growing massively over decades. Some IT departments spend almost all of their efforts just to keep the lights on.

Ironically, technologies become legacy extremely fast and prevent us from adopting new and better technologies. How should an organisation’s IT keep up with the increasing speed of digital transformation the world around us is undergoing?

The “nature” of technology

In biological evolution, the same characteristics which lead to the success of a lifeform often also lead to the extinction of that species as the environment they live in changes. And a lot of species in their food chain die out with them.

This is also true for businesses and the technology their operations rely on. Monolithic but robust on-premises architectures are evolving into decentralised microservices and cloud environments.

If your organisation can’t keep up with that evolution it’s gonna be dying the death of the mammoth flea.

The DNA of an organisation

Why do some organisations manage to transform their IT landscape and others just don’t?

The answer is quite simple: For a successful digital transformation, adaptability needs to be built into an organisation’s DNA.

Like in biological evolution, successful adaptation to a changing environment is not about size, age or resources. A recent discussion¹ unfolding around the topic shows a simple truth:

Legacy IT is not a bottleneck for Digital Transformation. Legacy thinking is.

¹ Read more about the discussion on legacy thinking in IT and why some people think that Shadow IT is a goldmine for Digital transformation 😉

Here are some highlights:

About the Current State of IT

“The reality is that IT is a cost center and drive to reduce costs. Shared services drive this to a least common denominator solutions model. This drives conservative operations without risk and lowering costs to minimum per user metrics and that means doers just keeping the beast alive.” – Rick Tolan

“If a company were to conduct a poll of its user community (as I have found many times over) the responses are always a BIG surprise, because: Nearly 100% of the user community does not understand nor are they completely aware of most of what IT does, what they [IT] implements or the reasons for much of what they do — to them (the user community) nearly all of what IT does is in the “shadows”.” – William Harrison

“Digital transformation needs to address the unintentional consequences of promoting policies that lead to common enemy creation. IT is put at odds with everyone else because their unspoken missions are often in conflict with change.” – Ryan Carlson


About the new Role of IT

“In the IT world, ‘risk’ is associated with both legacy and shadow IT but for different reasons. […] One answer to the problem, which coincidentally requires contributions from leadership, IT and the business, is to liberate Enterprise Data and make it available to the Information rock stars.” – John O’Gorman

“Traditional IT is very much top down, command and control. It is as about as non democratic as it gets. And in a world where IT was hyper complex that kind of made sense. In the age of hyper flexible SaaS it no longer does. The old guard needs to step up and get with the program or get out of the way.“ – Jason Greenwood

“How about decentralize IT and let them be part of individual business teams – and just have some common IT principles/values defined – that everyone adheres to…?” Narjeet Soni

“The best solutions come from a group consisting of experienced folks who have done it before and young folks who have not yet developed any biases or have any ownership for past practices.” – Sandy Vasser

“Give me passionate rebels every time. They believe in the mission and will do anything to get it done well. Integration can come later.” – Simon Honeychurch

The Role of the CIO

“A visionary CIO will have difficulty in bringing about change unless he or she is supported by an equally visionary CEO in a company that wholly embraces change” – Kevin Wallis-Eade

“CIO need to awaken from their slumber and smell the coffee before they become the holder of the company website and intranet and Sun Setting obsolescence.” – Colin Bull

“It’s not about shadow IT vs official IT, it’s about new ways of thinking and leadership at the top embracing new strategies and approaches.” – Kevin Mireles

About Shadow IT

“Shadow IT exists as a result of needing to do things more agile but where the normal structures of culture and organisational silo’s where decades of evolved governance with huge amounts of wait time frustrates and block innovation and competitive advantage. The very things Digital delivery potentially resolves hence the buzz around Transformation which if it works should banish the term shadow IT forever.” – Robin Adamson

“If we don’t like the term “shadow IT” then perhaps we should see it as IT hanging up their old white lab coats and coming out of the computer rooms instead! Come out IT! Join the parade! Stop protecting the business from their own data! It’s the enterprise’s data and we ALL have responsibility for it!” – Paul Loney

“There used to be shadow IT but the digital transformation revolution has put everything into one pot. If your IT says there is shadow IT then it too is living in the past.” – Michael Gale

“Legacy transformation is always painful and that is where we need to hunker down and manage. Shadow IT blossoms into mainstream and drives innovation with the right DT framework. Innovation needs to be one of the end objectives of any DT. The key is to find the right fit framework that achieves both.” – Jagan Ramaswami

“We inspire us with all the Shadow IT apps that are a way to fulfill a true necessity of a business area. Taking in account those apps we can create new digital solutions.” – Bruno Magnano Marinelli

“Shadow IT is a symptom of a company unwilling to invest in its employees and culture to foster an innovation mindset.” – Adrian Kearns

About Legacy IT

“Legacy IT is like a kingdom where people’s job security depends on privileged expertise of the legacy systems.” – Ahme Azmi

“Budgeting and internal reward/bonus structures leads to CIOs making decisions within a two year cycle to maximize personal benefits and therefore legacy systems get piled up.” – Holger Pokrandt

“Don’t forget that today’s legacy was once “Digital Transformation” in itself.” – Mike Briercliffe

“It is always limiting agility to HAVE something already. This is called “green field Advantage”. Every Software is legacy some months after its creation.” – Ernst Lieber

“The sooner we ditch the Legacy label the better. These system are part of the foreseeable future and need to be innovated upon rather than be left to the laws of IT entropy. Lets provide our engineers with great problems to solve rather than labels that create barriers.” – James McLeod

“It’s not necessarily legacy IT but legacy thinking that slows transformation…” – Martin Wilson

“Innovation inherently requires appetite for failure. Fail fast, fail cheap doesn’t happen in legacy IT.” – Ash Kumar

“Legacy thinking is a closed mindset. Legacy IT can always be upgraded.” – Michael Spence


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