“You can’t connect the dots going forward, you can only connect them looking backwards.”
We have seen in the previous blog post that the motivations for a modernization can be numerous and complex. In this short blog post, we will discuss the importance of sharing your motivations with your main stakeholders before even starting to look for technical solutions. Actually, you need to make sure your modernization path is clear for your teams in order to get them involved from day one. Without open communication and commitment from them, your project will be highly risky.
By nature, people don’t like change and are not eager for big changes…
You have a team of experts in charge of maintaining your legacy systems. In most cases, they will not be favorable to this modernization project which can be seen as a threat for their careers. This is especially true if they are about to retire. They will usually not be too eager to learn new technologies, programming languages and frameworks. In addition, they can be afraid of not being able to be efficient in maintaining and improving the new modern system, which could cause them to be unable to guarantee as good of a level of service as they provide today with the existing system.
They can also be afraid of having a lot more work to do during the modernization project in parallel of addition to their full-time job maintaining the legacy system up and running. Another factor for their reluctance could be their previous experience with modernization projects that have failed and never reached the desired goals Ultimately you are dealing with technical experts with tens of years of experience and they probably have all the potential arguments to convince you not to go for this risky project. At the same time, you have concrete financial forecasts that confirm you will be able to save up to 70% of your IT infrastructure cost if you modernize your legacy portfolio or reach any of your goals (business agility, growth, etc.). The dilemma is to be able to convince your teams of the importance of such benefits and answer their threats.
As a manager, you need to listen to their fears, classify them in different categories (HR, technical, etc.) and engage the right person in your team to bring answers (e.g. if trainings are needed, you have to schedule them). Moreover, some fears (especially technical) should be transformed into concrete questions to be asked to your modernization partner. This later is also here to help you overcome such difficulties.
Another typical issue can be related to employees using the legacy system (end-users), especially if they have been using it for years and know all its features. They may be afraid of not being as efficient with the modernized application as they are with the existing one. For example, most of the legacy systems offers shortcuts for almost all the menus (e.g. F1 to F12 keys) and your employees are used to “unconscientiously” use them to perform different tasks.
All these fears questions from your teams are legitime and you should address them. You can try to internally prepare initial answers and should include them into your Request for Information (RFI) and your Request for Proposal for your modernization projects.
To sustain your business, you need to ensure a smooth continuity between your existing teams and the new upcoming ones. Without a commitment to modernization, how can you attract millennials to work for you on those legacy user interfaces and aging platforms when they are used to the advanced UX design of their favorite mobile and web applications.
The new generation of IT consumers and IT consultants are looking to startups and their offers as the new standards. This is of course not fully related to your legacy IT but it can be considered as a true liability to obtaining replacement staff.
Building a mix team made of different members with different profiles will allow you to define a new environment that may fit all profiles expectations.
You know that the adoption of the modernization project jointly by your users and technical teams is important both for your business at mid- and long-terms. At the very short term, the adoption of this project is essential for its success. Obviously, if the technical teams and end-users are not eager to share respectively their technical and functional know-how, the project will be more difficult and will be at a higher risk of failure. In such context, the process of decision has to take into consideration all these parameters and come up with a concrete plan that addresses all the fears and positions of all the stakeholders before starting the project from a technical point of view.
In conclusion, keeping legacy applications is highly risky for the sustainability and/or the development of the business and may be extremely costly compared to new existing alternatives. As an executive (especially CIO), you are aware of this situation, and most of you have a strategy for digital transformation mainly to remove your dependence on legacy software and migrate from these “dinosaurs” platforms. You must quickly re-think, re-design and re-tool your legacy or face a future where you will be simply too slow and inflexible to keep pace with your more agile competitors.
However, it is critical that you do not neglect all the other aspects of the project. You will need to address them internally by a parallel concrete non-technical strategy by including your HR department.
To sum up, we can define a simple workflow to apply before diving into the technical aspects:
“Succeeding the modernization project is not your only ultimate goal”.
Your choice to modernize all or part of your legacy systems may be motivated by financial, technical, HR, sustainability, business development reasons, or a mix of all of them. Whatever your motivations are, you know exactly why you need to modernize and you have addressed all the barriers. Now, you have to convert these motivations to Business Key Performance Indicators. These business KPIs have to be extracted from your mid-term and long-term goals expected from the modernization along with a timeline. In fact, the modernization itself as a technical process has not to be your ultimate goal.
Of course, the process must be efficient enough to lead to success. However, if you move from option A (legacy) to option B (modern) without a clear vision of what you will obtain in return, you may reach option B but get disappointed with the results. For this reason, you need to clearly define a set of KPIs to reach thanks to this modernization project.
In the next blog, we will dive deeper into what are the KPIs to be defined and how to make sure they are reachable.
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