One of the major challenges organizations face during digital transformation is dealing with legacy systems and information silos that have built up over time. Legacy systems refer to old software and architectures that organizations have relied on for many years but may now be holding them back. Information silos occur when different parts of an organization store data separately without any connection or standardization between the silos. This can create data management challenges and inhibit collaboration.
There are several strategies organizations can take to address legacy systems and silos during their digital transformation journey. The key is to have a plan to gradually modernize frameworks and break down barriers in a systematic way. Here are some recommendations:
Start with mapping and assessments. The first step is to conduct a thorough mapping and assessment of all existing legacy systems, applications, databases, and information silos across the organization. This will provide visibility into what technical and information debts exist. It can identify areas that are most critical to prioritize.
Define a target architecture. With a clear understanding of the current state, organizations need to define a target or future state architecture for how their IT infrastructure and information management should operate during and after the transformation. This target architecture should be aligned to business goals and incorporate modern, flexible and standardized practices.
Take an incremental approach. A “big bang” overhaul of all legacy systems and silos at once is unrealistic and risky. Instead, prioritize the highest impact or easiest to upgrade systems and silos first as “proof of concept” projects. Gradually implement changes across different business units and functions over time to minimize disruption. Automating migrations where possible can also reduce manual effort.
Embrace application rationalization. Many organizations have accumulated numerous duplicate, overlapping or unused applications over the years without removing them. Rationalizing applications involves identifying and consolidating redundant systems, retiring older ones no longer in use, and standardizing on a core set of platforms. This simplifies the IT landscape.
Adopt API-led integration strategies. To break down information silos, application programming interfaces (APIs) can be used to create standardized connector points that allow different databases and systems to exchange data seamlessly. This facilitates interoperability and data-sharing across organizational boundaries. Master data management practices can also help consolidate redundant records.
Focus on data and analytics. A major goal of digital transformation is to unlock the value of organizational data through advanced analytics. This requires establishing standardized data governance policies, taxonomies, schemas and data lakes/warehouses to aggregate data from various sources into usable formats. Robust BI and analytics platforms can then generate insights.
Leverage cloud migration. Public cloud platforms such as AWS, Azure and GCP offer scalable, pay-per-use infrastructure that is easier to update compared to on-premise legacy systems. Migrating non-critical and new workloads to the cloud is a practical first step that drives modernization without a “forklift” upgrade. This supports flexible, cloud-native application development as well.
Use DevOps and automation. Adopting agile methodologies like DevOps helps break down silos between IT teams through practices like continuous integration/delivery (CI/CD) pipelines. Automating infrastructure provisioning, testing, releases and monitoring through configuration files reduces manual efforts and speeds deployment of changes. This enables rapid, low-risk development and upgrades of existing systems over time.
Train and reskill employees. Digital transformation inevitably causes disruptions that impact roles. Organizations must reskill and upskill employees through training programs to gain qualifications relevant to emerging technologies. This eases adoption of new tools and ways of working. Change management is also vital to guide employee mindsets through transitions and keep motivation high.
Monitor and course-correct periodically. A digital transformation is an ongoing journey, not a one-time project. Organizations need to continuously monitor key metrics, assess progress towards objectives, and adjust strategies based on lessons learned. Addressing legacy and silo issues is never fully “complete” – the focus should be on establishing evolutionary processes that can regularly evaluate and modernize the underlying IT architecture and information flows.
Tackling legacy systems and silos is a massive challenge but essential for digital transformation success. The strategies outlined here provide a systematic, incremental approach for organizations to gradually modernize, simplify and break down barriers over time. With ongoing commitment, monitoring and adjustments, it is very possible for companies to effectively transition even highly entrenched technological and organizational legacies into more agile, data-driven digital operations.