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Legacy system integration

Written byMiles

July 25, 2013

systems-integrationIn the world of business, legacy system integration is a topic of intense interest. The basic business processes of many enterprises are managed via an IT systems structure that relies on legacy software, which is a mixed blessing as most managers would put it. Based on technology that is reliable but hard to modify or maintain, legacy software can be quite a challenge to deal with. Unlike other technology that can probably be upgraded without much trouble, an organization’s legacy system is that one integral pillar in its IT infrastructure that cannot be moved lest the whole structure fall apart. This creates a dilemma for many an IT manager: replacing the legacy software seems expensive and risky, but how to respond to the constant demands for expanded access, new features, and revised processing is hard, also.

Aside from catering to the immediate basic needs of the users, businesses and agencies also need to keep in mind their future requirements. As the IT industry evolves, so do the technological demands of the user base, a fact that organizations cannot ignore. Thus arises the manager’s dilemma: how to reconcile the information needs of the users with the technological capabilities of the business. While managing an organization whose processes are run by software that might be older than your first child, how do you furnish your tech-savvy customers with data compatible with their modern systems and devices? Legacy system integration is one way to ensure that you can keep your essential system intact, while incorporating the use of modern applications.

The discovery of the benefits of legacy system integration has led to a significant rise in organizational spending in this sector. Though legacy system integration could possibly cost the organization millions of dollars, in the current environment of flat-lining IT budgets legacy systems integration maintains a steady top-five position in the organization’s “shopping list”.

To ensure that you get the most out of your legacy system integration, consider these 4 steps:

1. Ensure that you need legacy system integration – Though legacy systems applications are important, in some situations scrapping the old for the new is entirely justifiable. IT management should examine the costs involved, and whether the cost-benefit-analysis lies in favor of legacy system integration or not.

2. Determine what level of integration your business requires – There are a variety of legacy system integration techniques, all at different cost and different business value. There are approaches that integrate data as soon as it becomes available, by using web services that allow modern applications real-time access to legacy databases; this may be the most expensive and complex legacy system integration model. But, you can also run the legacy system in isolation and screen-scrape the interfaces to provide automated access through the legacy user interface.

3. Ensure that your data is clean – This basically means that your data element definitions should be clear and that the developers working on the more modern platforms understand what the data in the legacy system means. A data dictionary like the one in our Engineer tool set can help. Moreover, your legacy data should free of redundant records and data values that fail edit checks. This will ensure that the legacy system integration works efficiently.

4. Analyze systems overlaps – Sometimes new applications will have the same functionality as that of the legacy system. In such a situation an executive decision needs to be made as to which one to use for the issue at hand. After all, the person who has two wristwatches can never be sure what time it really is.

Whether you should keep your legacy system running, and for how long, depends on many factors. We can analyze the old code, and even modernize it in stages that are affordable and low-risk – just don’t wait until an emergency arises to make the plan!

Image Source: envisionedsystems

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