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Achieving business goals by managing digital transformation and legacy software

23 Apr 2021

Article by M-Files partner and alliance manager for ANZ Chris Smith.
 

A study by Australia’s Department of Industry, Innovation and Science found that organisations could boost overall productivity and the economy by $140–250 billion by 2025 by adopting digital technologies.

In the past year, organisations have had no choice but to embrace fast-tracked digital transformations to accommodate the ongoing practice of working from home, leverage the continued prevalence of online shopping and learning, and continue giving customers the experience they expect.

During the process of digital transformation, some businesses discovered that clinging to their legacy systems and procedures hindered their transformations — sometimes significantly. Businesses must consider whether to completely retire legacy systems or determine whether incorporating them will support the organisation’s broader digital transformation initiatives. There are four important questions to ask:

  1. Why undergo a digital transformation?
  2. What is the most critical business information?
  3. Who needs access to this critical business information?
  4. Which technologies will best support the transformation and achieve the organisation’s goals?

Organisations that have successfully completed a digital transformation process understand that it is about achieving a broader business goal, not just about incorporating technologies for their own sake. 

A corporate leadership focused on change is critical. Leadership ought to look holistically at how existing best practices and technology platforms support the organisation’s overall trajectory. Businesses need to be willing to adapt their core systems and processes not to where they are, but to where they want to be.

A key indicator that the time for this transformation has come is the presence of siloed information and business practices in various departments. This ultimately makes it difficult for people to communicate and collaborate.

Organisations are dealing with large volumes of client documents and data. Where this data is stored and how it is managed must not get in the way of providing quality client experience and workforce productivity. 

If information is trapped in a data silo and is only available to one team, then all the insights are essentially cut off from others who might be able to use them. This sacrifices efficiency for effectiveness and puts up a barrier where one does not need to exist. Data needs to flow freely, not just between departments but across the entire organisation.

However, it’s still important to ensure that data can only be accessed by those with correct authorisation, especially given many client documents are highly sensitive. An information breach could damage the firm’s reputation in addition to being costly; the average cost of a data breach is more than $7 million. 

With remote work further complicating matters, organisations must ensure that they retain visibility and control over information, regardless of where staff members are accessing it. They must ensure that information is only accessible by the right people without hindering productivity and collaboration.

Digital transformation must be seen as so much more than just pasting a technological veneer over existing business-as-usual systems and processes. Organisations that start their digital transformation journey with sound knowledge of what the business is will have a better understanding of the technologies that will be required.

Within the context of a digital transformation, nostalgia may not be an asset. If there is an existing legacy system that is holding the business back, and the only argument in favour of keeping it is ‘that’s just the way the business has always done things’, this could be very costly. 

Decision-makers must dive deep into the business infrastructure, taking a close look at all interconnected components, systems, applications, workflows, data accessibility, and map out who needs what critical information. 

It’s essential to understand how they all fit together, how they are supposed to work together, and how one might be holding the others back. Legacy systems could be a help or a hindrance to the digital transformation process.

This is about so much more than just the organisation’s IT investment. It’s about creating a solid foundation that the business can build from to thrive and innovate for the next decade and beyond. Ultimately, it must be about using the right tools and systems to get the business to where it wants to go.