Granted, legacy transformation or legacy modernization is not new. Usually the first association people have when hearing the word legacy transformation is the process of replacing old technology with newer IT systems and applications. Upgrading a company’s IT systems has been an “evergreen” topic for IT departments.
However, the dimension and the impact of legacy transformation have changed. It is more than an “IT replacement” story. It has become a growth story. Companies are realizing the business growth potential facilitated through IT. They want to capitalize on new opportunities to identify, reach, and engage customers by using big data, cloud, mobile, and social technologies—and need the IT infrastructure to do so quickly. As such, IT modernization has moved up on the CIO agenda as a priority.
Today modernizing the IT infrastructure has become a critical factor in supporting a company’s business growth and competitiveness.
This means you need to take the bird’s eye view when devising your company’s legacy transformation strategy. Before embarking upon the “transformation” journey—however big (or small) it is—take time to align your IT strategy with the corporate strategy and vision.
A complete plan will encompass not only the technology you wish to upgrade to in order to meet business goals, but more importantly, how you will mobilize your team and keep everyone on the same page during the transformation process.
To get started, here are some key questions you should be asking yourself to help you decide on an approach that best fits your environment:
1. Stakeholder commitment: What is the plan to get ongoing support and interest, especially for a multiyear project, from your business stakeholders? How do you manage priorities between running the business and supporting the transformation? What is the plan to have a quick ROI?
2. Technology governance: Technocrats are creative and innovative. They experiment. There is no end to the best technology—it’s like a parking lot syndrome. How do you decide what technology is best for your organization?
3. Organization realignment: How do you plan the re-skilling of the resources with changed roles and responsibilities? How do you leverage the architecture office or create one to provide guidance and governance? Distribution of skills, not just technical but business too, for better resource utilization and long-term retention is a must.
4. Delivery channel optimization: Diversity of people and skills breeds innovation. And if managed correctly, it will reduce cost and improve speed to market. How do you tap into the core competency of your internal staff, an incumbent IT partner, or bring in a new partner? What type of partnership do you need with the IT vendor?
5. Process optimization: How do you measure process efficiency? What levers do you need to apply to move the needle on process optimization? How flexible is your process to adapt to the changing needs of the agile executing process? Remember change is the only constant in this process.
While there is no “one-size-fits-all” plan, looking at best practices, successful legacy transformation projects have the following characteristics in common:
- Take a Look at the Crystal Ball: Envision the socioeconomic environment in which the company will operate in five, 10, or 20 years from now. How do your business processes need to change and be designed to stay competitive, and keep your company’s greatest asset—the people—at the very center? Based on this projection, map the business processes and IT system requirements, emphasizing flexibility and openness.
- Walk Before You Run: Start small to win confidence within the entire organization. Management and employees generally need to see the potential for improvement in their business processes before they will fully support a full-scale transformation process. Only once everyone is on board can a transformation process truly begin to pick up speed and move efficiently.
- Choose a Legacy Transformation Team: IT transformation projects typically run in addition to the regular IT work. This is like keeping the car moving at 90 m.p.h. and trying to change the tire at the same time. Assess the skill set and work load of your team members and put together a legacy transformation team. Bring in an IT partner to fill skill set gaps, or avoid work overload, with the flexibility to ramp up and down as your legacy transformation project progresses. This will allow for your team members to play their part in the transformation process while still being able to meet their own daily work goals.
- Establish a Legacy Transformation Office: To run the work stream on time and on budget, establish a transformation office (for the duration of the project). Dedicate one team member to oversee and manage the legacy transformation process and keep business partners throughout the organization engaged. Part-time assignments reduce the success rate and increase the time frame for the project.
In short, the success of a legacy transformation project is directly related to the time spent preparing and evaluating options prior to the start, putting the right team in place, and working together with the business partners across the organization.