Contending with legacy
How badly do legacy systems affect Middle Eastern businesses, and what can be done to solve the problems associated with them?
CIOs are forever being told that they need make their IT operations more agile, and better able to respond to changes in the market. However, that’s easier said than done when you’ve got a legacy architecture to contend with. On the flipside of that, we’ve often told that the Middle East is a ‘greenfield’ region, with few organisations having legacy systems to contend with. How badly do legacy architectures affect Middle Eastern businesses, and what can be done to solve the problems associated with legacy?
Well, according to the experts, large organisations in this region actually have less to worry about in terms of legacy, as opposed to large organisations in more developed markets. Indeed, going against the logical thinking, it is actually the large enterprises of the Middle East that are the most agile, while small to medium-sized businesses struggle with legacy.
“Larger Middle East organisations are on the cutting edge of the latest technology, and it is often the small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that face legacy IT systems,” explains SavithaBhaskar, COO of Condo Protego.
“Due to budgetary restrictions, and not facing as many regulatory or compliance requirements, Middle East SMEs are at the highest risk of continuing to use legacy IT systems. CIOs at organisations both large and small must work with the C-suite to explain the risks of legacy IT systems, and present the business case for deploying a gradual, phased-in approach to replace legacy IT systems with the latest architecture.”
The point is echoed by Monzer Tohme, country manager for the Middle East at Infor, who says that there are still a sizable number of small to mid-market organisations in the region that are using either in-house, legacy developed applications or multi-national legacy ERP solutions. And the general consensus is that this has become something of a problem for these organisations.
“Legacy applications were built in a different time, often to serve a single purpose, and rarely meet the criteria necessary to help an organisation for the long-term. Organisations that use these platforms are plagued with failures, maintenance issues, inappropriate functionality, lack of documentation and poor performance,” Tohme explains.
“These systems are inordinately expensive to maintain, inflexible when it comes to adapting to changing business needs, brittle and lack techniques or technology to fix legacy IS problems.”
Bhaskar adds: “Legacy IT systems often generate silos of information, which pose challenges for IT operations and administration, and may cause day-to-day storage, backup, and security operations to no longer be compatible. As a result, Middle East CIOs face a significant business case for replacing legacy IT systems – reducing cost and complexity, and lowering the risks across quality of performance, data loss, and network security.”
If we take it as granted that legacy systems pose something of a problem or IT operations, then, how can CIOs go about dealing with those problems?
The road forward
According to Anis Al Tell, chief commercial officer at eHostingDataFort (eHDF), CIOs in the Middle East take various approaches to dealing with legacy. For example, while it may be fair to say that most IT managers would rather not have to contend with a legacy problem, upgrading may not be justifiable from a business point of view. Others, meanwhile, are able to make a business case, but some of those CIOs might have to upgrade piece by piece.
“Middle Eastern CIOs, like their counterparts world over, now have to carefully weigh the business needs of their organisation and navigate a path that would yield the best value to their business and have the least operational impacts and overall costs. Many CIOs take a cautious approach, but quite a few are also taking a drastic approach, which could either be fork-lifting or staying with legacy IT which is not necessarily the most efficient or effective,” he explains.
That might be the case when it comes to hardware infrastructures, but often the problems with legacy are most keenly felt when it comes to older versions of ERP software. Again, there are a number of ways to handle these problems, according to Infor’s Tohme.
“Often CIOs would use custom development to bridge the gap between what a legacy system/application can deliver and the business requirements of modern users,” he says. “Screen scrapers is one method used where the intent is to deliver web access on the current legacy platform. Another option is legacy wrapping. This technique constructs callable APIs around traditional transactions, offering an integration point with newer applications.”
Naturally, though, these options amount to simply accepting legacy as a day-to-day challenge, and dealing with it accordingly. To actually solve the problems associate with legacy, organisations need to take much more proactive steps.