The replacement of core back-office systems is one of the next big challenges facing organisations in all sectors.
In a survey of European financial firms by Forrester Research, three quarters of respondents said they need to renew their main back-office systems.
However, with many IT departments still under pressure to cut IT costs and deliver a quick return on investment, getting such a large project signed off by the board can pose difficulties.
At a discussion event held last week, organised by mainframe software supplier Microfocus, IT directors, suppliers and analysts debated the risks and opportunities of updating or replacing legacy systems.
David Jackson, senior vice-president of Bank of America, said, "I do not know if the [general business] has lost faith in three-year projects that will deliver a return on investment over five years, but when [the business] asks an IT department to do something, it will invariably cost more than they expect and they will say they have other priorities. The replacement of legacy systems is a hurdle and a huge cost."
He added that companies could use XML technology to link systems until there were enough funds to replace them.
Service-orientated architectures - a form of development that breaks down applications into functions that can be re-used - can also link legacy systems.
Jost Hopperman, vice-president and business analyst at Forrester Research, said companies could minimise the risks of large IT projects by going live in small stages rather than in a "big bang". "I knew of three Japanese banks that tried to do an applications merger and their systems were down for days," he said.