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Data locked in legacy systems curbs digitisation plans

Maintaining access to data stuck in legacy systems is costly and limits IT’s ability to work on digital transformation initiatives

The majority of large enterprises run legacy IT systems that they no longer update. These older systems are only maintained to enable access to the data they hold, a survey commissioned by Macro 4 has reported.

The survey of 100 IT decision-makers within UK enterprises, carried out by Vanson Bourne, found that 89% of businesses do not update their legacy systems with live data, but choose instead to maintain them for access to old data.

When asked if supporting these legacy systems to maintain access to historical data was efficient, over 30% said such work tied up IT resources that could be better employed on digital transformation or other strategic activities.

According to Macro 4, ageing systems tend to consume disproportionately high levels of resources. It said IT companies regularly charged a premium for supporting old software and hardware, and internal support costs could also be higher if there were fewer people on the IT team with knowledge of the application, or with the legacy skills required to fix problems when they arose.

“It’s normal for IT applications to outlive their usefulness and be replaced by more modern systems. However, the original apps often hold valuable data that’s still needed by the business for operational reasons, such as responding to customer enquiries, compliance or business intelligence,” said Jim Allum, director, commercial and technical at Macro 4, which provides services and technology to help companies decommission their legacy applications.

When asked if legacy systems hampered digital business transformation, 90% agreed that older systems were often difficult to integrate with newer digital applications introduced as part of a digital transformation effort. This can result in a disconnect between the old and the new, the loss of access to important historical knowledge and a fragmented view of enterprise information, Macro 4 said.

IT decision-makers also regard legacy systems as potential security risks. Further, 82% said they were aware that old or legacy systems were usually incompatible with modern security mechanisms and authentication methods such as biometrics and multifactor authentication.

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