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Will IT ever untie from legacy systems?

As organizations trumpet their digital transformation strategies, they talk of unifying workspaces, moving to the cloud and simplifying app delivery and management. It’s all very forward thinking.

But at the end of the day, many still rely on legacy hardware, software and processes. As the buzz of conference season wound down, I began to wonder: Will that ever change?

Legacy applications, such as customer relationship management and enterprise resource planning software, persist in IT because they are so critical to the way a business functions. These systems process and store data related to finances, operations, human resources, client transactions and much more. But they weren’t built with virtualization, cloud computing, mobility and machine learning in mind. They were barely built to handle the speed and frameworks of today’s internet.

The problem is, it’s expensive and time-consuming to update or replace legacy systems. Software vendors themselves have only just begun reworking their platforms to meet the demands of digital transformation; some have released tools, for instance, to help companies make their legacy data accessible from mobile applications. And that old mantra of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” continues to sing out among many IT professionals who just don’t want to face complex migration projects.

This month’s cover story explores some of the tools that can help organizations build micro apps, which consolidate common employee workflows and connect to back-end systems. This technology, known as rapid mobile app development, is just one of many in the end-user computing market that touts integration with legacy systems. But is that just a bandage on the problem? Organizations that adopt these types of tools must still run and maintain those old platforms; users simply connect to them differently.

The onus to move beyond legacy is on both sides. Software providers must more rapidly provide IT with mobile-friendly versions of their applications, or at least the right tools to migrate to mobile. And IT departments and businesses themselves must get out of their comfort zones, invest in cloud services and focus on user experience.

If organizations do that, they’ll be better able to deliver the right data to the right users in the long term. Digital transformation shouldn’t just mean loosening ties with old systems. It should mean cutting them altogether.

This post originally appeared in the October 2017 issue of Access Magazine.

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