Does Digital Transformation mean getting rid of legacy?

31.4k views16 Upvotes40 Comments

President | CIO | Digital Transformation | Author in Software, 2 - 10 employees
Not necessarily. It depends on your definition of legacy, but more important, is the technology or business process labeled as 'legacy' inhibiting the company's strategic plans. If the legacy is creating a poor customer experience, is difficult to upgrade, can't easily be integrated with other applications or data sources, is exhibiting poor performance, requires lots of people to support, or has risky security holes then there probably is good reason/rational to want to get rid of it.Even if the answer is yes, then organizations can't replace all their legacy issues at once. It requires roadmapping. More often than not, it requires maintaining legacy systems for sometime.There are cases where legacy isn't bad or needs to be replaced. If the technology is stable, does its job well, and is not a barrier to business needs then there's little reason to get rid of it.
9 1 Reply
CEO in Services (non-Government), 201 - 500 employees

I concur, Comes down to your organizations definition of Legacy Systems. Often this a reference too outdated, antiquated systems. In all fairness there are many Mainframe, Legacy (labeled) systems in current use. Offering advanced, emerging technical innovations. One persons trash, is another persons(industry/vertical’s) technical treasures. 🏴‍☠️

Chief Security Officer in Software, 10,001+ employees
Agree with Isaac. Most organizations can't pivot on a dime so legacy doesn't go away overnight just because you want to transform to digital. Instead your strategy becomes digital first and therefore if/until you can move legacy to digital or decommission it, legacy will be around for a while.
CTO in Software, 11 - 50 employees
MyPOV - Legacy as a tag is not motivating. Typically it is still revenue generating, so extremely vital to the bottom line. Then the conversations shifts to being more inclusive on how to migrate to the next phase of the company and transformation.
CTO in Software, 11 - 50 employees
Digital transformation typically involves a change in thinking, processes/methods/tools, with the encouragement of innovation and new business models, incorporating digitization of assets, leading to newer workflows/metrics and an increased use of technology to improve the experience of your organisation’s employees, customers, suppliers, partners and stakeholders. This may lead to newer AI/ML engines being leveraged, or newer algorithmic systems occurring which may still have legacy systems, but likely has newer Operational agility incorporated. As such non-strategic, inefficient legacy systems slowly will get transformed...
Principal | CMTO, Ekspansiv in Services (non-Government), 2 - 10 employees
Agree with the comments above...your question is a bit generic though. Do you mean legacy email systems? Databases? ERP tools? First define what you "think" is legacy. Then understand your technology debt. It's hard to define legacy without first understanding your technology debt, from there, you can approach the above issues.
IT Director - Data & Development in Telecommunication, 1,001 - 5,000 employees
No. 'Legacy' never goes away and supports the baseline of revenue for most companies. Over time, what was updated to current technology becomes legacy. Digital transformation will evolve to the next item considered legacy eventually as it matures.
CIO in Services (non-Government), 2 - 10 employees
I think, there is the dynamic balance between popping up the new challenges and digitalization process of the former ones. We never can automate all tasks because every single day brings us something fresh. The business, which I'm working for, isn't excluse.
Global CIO in Services (non-Government), 5,001 - 10,000 employees
More than legacy, we are living in digital world today, if one needs to be competitive in the market digital transformation is very critical for every organization. Client is always looking for quick turn- around and that is possible with going digitization. In summary, yes we have to get rid of legacy to improve productivity and efficiency.
CIO / Founder in Software, 51 - 200 employees
Digital transformation means getting rid of inefficiencies, it means enhancing customers experience, improving productivity. Digital transformation spans across processes, people and the way of working; wherein technology can act as an enabler. Like Robotic Process Automation can eliminate routine manual operations minimizing errors and inefficiencies, AI/ML can lead to magical customer insights enabling relevant customer experience. So I think, Digital Transformation may not be necessarily about getting rid of legacy, but it is surely about breaking the mindset of teams and organizations that subscribe to the philosophy of – “We always did it this way”.
Senior Technology & Management Consultant in Retail, 10,001+ employees
I think digital transformation entails a few things. In my interactions with various CXOs across different enterprises, here are a few asks from digital transformation:1. Optimizing on the systems in the organization. This includes Master Data Management, unifying systems that do the same thing (like manage inventory or product catalog) across channels etc. 2. Improving process efficiency - This might include improved work flows, RPA and the like.3. Being Agile - Improving the process to deliver functionality and to identify and prioritize features etc.4. Autonomous groups - Setting up groups within the organization that specialize on parts of the business. (in short sketching the business context of the organization)5. Brand Identity - (closely aligned to point (1) above) Unifying the brand across channels and providing a consistent experience to the customer across channels6. Moving data to digital - this usually morphs with (1) above since most organizations have some sort of digital system already in place. 7. SOA, Micro Services, Enterprise Messaging, Enterprise Bus etc. - Again this can morph into (1) since what we are in essence doing is to identify and unify the systems that do the same thing and expose these systems as services. As we can see point 1 above is very important and is an integral part of digital transformation. This might mean that you might have to get rid of legacy if the legacy system has severe limitations in scalability, flexibility etc. But by thinking of this as a legacy replacement exercise you might be missing the bus (no pun intended). Most of the work I do on digital transformations focuses on point 1 above in some form or the other. (be it identifying these at the level of business or at the level of technology)

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Without a doubt - Technical Debt! It's a ball and chain that creates an ever increasing drag on any organization, stifles innovation, and prevents transformation.
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