The good, the bad and the ugly - digital transformation and legacy IT

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IT is a rapidly evolving industry and, as such, it is extremely difficult for businesses to keep up and continue to implement new technology as it is delivered to market. However, customer expectations and demands are arguably evolving at a faster pace than technology and, in order to remain competitive and avoid losing market share to digitally innovative competitors, organisations are under pressure to implement the latest tech and place digital at the heart of their operations. 

This is demonstrated in market growth. The global digital transformation market is growing at a CAGR of over 18% and according to IDC, global spending on digital experiences (DX) will reach a staggering $1.7 trillion globally by the end of 2019, highlighting the demand for digital infrastructures which increase business efficiency and help to deliver excellent customer service. 

With huge investment and large budgets allocated to digital transformation, the pressure is on for all enterprise leaders to make immediate and tangible progress in digital initiatives. 

Legacy and complexity – a formidable combination 

However, this is easier said than done. Research shows that many companies are not achieving their digital goals. According to research conducted by AppDirect, 90% of the businesses surveyed revealed that they were facing significant obstacles to digital transformation success. As well as this, IDC’s UK report found that over half (59%) of organisations questioned were described as being stuck in the early stages of DX maturity, or what IDC calls a “digital impasse”. Just look at the Ministry of Justice – despite investing £1bn into digitising the courts, the MoJ still suffered major disruption in the form of an IT outage that lasted serval days earlier this year.

So, what is stopping businesses from getting to the next level of digital maturity?

Legacy IT is one of the major barriers to successful digital transformation projects. The integration of new technology comes at a cost, both financially and in resources, and many organisations cannot afford to replace the entirety of their IT infrastructure in one go. While the introduction of a few new technologies may provide the appearance of updated systems, many organisations still have old, legacy software running throughout the entire network. Furthermore, it is not always possible for businesses to simply rip and replace legacy IT. For many companies, this is vital infrastructure that holds critical data and is ingrained in foundations of the entire organisations’ IT landscape. The potential downtime and cost of replacing all legacy IT is something that the majority of businesses cannot afford. 

These legacy systems were not built to support new digital ways of working and are often expensive to maintain, difficult to modify and are rarely able to be seamlessly integrated with new technologies. As such, legacy systems create data silos outside the control of IT, making it nigh-on impossible for IT leaders to have full visibility into business operations and derive data driven insights. New investments designed to solve the problem of legacy IT can generate further complexity, creating a vicious circle of fragmented visibility. 

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Image Credit: Shutterstock (Image credit: Image Credit: Shutterstock)

Destroying IT silos 

This complex mix of disparate, decentralised systems which neither integrate nor communicate with each other often results in system failure and, in turn, frustrated users. What makes matters worse is that CIOs neither have the ability to catch issues before they arise nor have access to the data that coherently illustrates how much time has been lost. 

The only way to mitigate against the risk of legacy IT is for businesses to ensure that they have a practical strategy in place that improves visibility and control over the entire system. In order to achieve this, organisations must centralise IT monitoring and destroy data islands if they want to have a complete view into network operations and enable IT teams to successfully support digital transformation projects. 

However, this may be a huge task in itself. Ironically, in an attempt to unify disparate systems, many firms have invested in a huge number of different monitoring tools, each providing only a blurred view of the network. The sheer volume of monitoring software tools per organisation is shocking. In fact, research from Enterprise Management Associates revealed that a vast number of organisations have ten or more monitoring tools, meaning it takes businesses between three and six hours to pinpoint the source of an IT performance issue. This is clearly unsustainable for any business to operate successfully in a 24/7 economy.

The siloisation of IT only compounds this issue. The separation and the lack of communication between different departments hinders CIOs from gaining the insights needed to demand and utilise a move to a more proactive monitoring practice. This in turn creates an inherited culture of disastrous tool sprawl, with each team purchasing similar tools from a range of vendors to suit their immediate needs without first consulting each other. In this sprawled environment, it is impossible for IT leaders to gain a holistic view of the entire digital landscape. Only by monitoring all aspects of applications and systems from a single pane of glass, will businesses have the full picture of system health, availability and capacity in near real-time. This will then enable CIOs to derive business value from digital transformation operations. 

The importance of unified visibility 

Centralised IT monitoring can also help IT teams operate on the basis of ‘prevention rather than a cure’. For example, with visibility into the performance of applications and systems, early-stage problems can be identified, enabling IT teams to fix them before they end up snowballing into major incidents, such as IT outages. Mitigating the risk of IT outages is certainly critical to continued business success as these types of incidents have a huge reputational and financial impact. According to  Gartner’s research, it costs about $5,600 every minute a business is suffering from an outage, although the analyst admits that the figure could reach far higher — $540,000 per hour — at the top end. 

Traditionally, IT management has been an afterthought for business executives. However, digital transformation and the need for operational efficiency has propelled IT into the forefront of the C-suite agenda, but to effectively garner insights into IT operations, enterprises must have a clear and centralised view of operational health. With a single pane of glass view in place from the very beginning of a digital transformation project, IT leaders can have the confidence to invest in projects and not fear the outcome, as they’re giving themselves every chance to identify and prevent system failures before they occur.

Neil Ferguson, VP Sales Engineering at Opsview 

Neil Ferguson
Neil Ferguson is the VP Sales Engineering, at Opsview, a global software company – which he joined in its infancy. Neil has over 20 years’ experience in the software industry.