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Article 4 – February 2021

5 solutions to your legacy technology transformation woes

By Serenity Gibbons | Forbes Just because something works doesn’t make it efficient or practical. Take an old gas-guzzler car. It may get you from point to point, but you’re going to waste money and resources along the way. Legacy technology systems fit this metaphor well. They may work, but at what cost? Often, they’re clunky and much slower than more modern digital solutions. Plus, they may not have the capacity to allow your team to scale and compete. The answer, of course,… is a digital transformation (DX). Unfortunately, it’s an answer that doesn’t always pan out. Around seven out of 10 companies that embark on the road to DX never make it to their destination. They peter out. And their legacy systems keep chugging along.

Around seven out of 10 companies that embark on the road to DX never make it to their destination.

Why the high rate of DX failure? To be honest, several challenges lie in the way of a successful technological transformation. First of all, support doesn’t always come from the top down. Bottom-up DX rarely gets enough traction to make a lasting splash. Plus, lots of companies make wrong replacement choices, merely replacing one legacy system for another. Finally, a true DX project can lead to transformation fatigue if everyone’s expected to make major changes on a dime.

This isn’t to suggest that DX is an impossible dream. It’s hardly the stuff that Don Quixote warbled against in “Man of La Mancha.” It just takes a tempered touch and some serious planning to make legacy technology transformations stick long-term.

  1. Go for the easy wins.Instead of replacing your tech stack portfolio at once, alter it slowly. For instance, replace one of your legacy systems that won’t cause tons of ruffled feathers. Email is a good starting point. Most people can adapt to new email platforms, even if they’re not the most tech-savvy workers on your team.Getting a small, fast win tears down psychological hurdles to embracing new digital solutions. It also allows people to see the advantages that can come from upgrading, such as being able to sync calendars effortlessly or send unlimited files within an encrypted intranet system. Never underestimate how powerful it can be for your employees to have a good DX experience from the start.
  1. Cultivate champions in the executive ranks.CIO not on board with legacy transformation? CEO keep putting it on the back burner? You’re on the road to stunted tech growth. You need a high-level champion front and centre who can help you succeed and improve buy-in across the board.Speaking of the board, having board members involved in your DX campaign can be a huge asset. Board member support can put pressure on C-suite leaders to take modernisation initiatives seriously. After all, the board has a huge stake in the economic viability of your company. When they’re emphasising and prioritising DX at the board-level, your top-ranking executives will listen.
  1. Break down DX into bite-sized chunks.Think agile and move in short sprints rather than one long marathon. Along these lines, you may want to look for simple answers that allow you to keep parts of your legacy system for even longer, such as putting “wrapper” systems in place. Digital wrappers aren’t new; MIT was talking about leveraging them years ago. Taking baby steps lets everyone catch their collective breath after one legacy system or solution has been replaced by a more contemporary version.As you’re chunking your DX steps, be sure to share goalposts with your crew.As you’re chunking your DX steps, be sure to share goalposts with your crew. As an example, you may want to send out reminders about timelines and expectations. This keeps employees abreast of what’s occurring. It also shows them how they can help you move closer to meeting your expectations.
  1. Give people training to make the most of replacement systems.Sure, you’ll have some self-starters on your team who will dive straight into any system you install. But most of your folks will sit back and timidly toy around the edges of unfamiliar software and systems. That’s why you have to teach them why it’s okay to get rid of the legacy systems they love and embrace the myriad possibilities of a replacement.It’s not enough to offer a single training or two. Go overboard with anyone you want to actually make good use of your DX solutions. Offer in-person, socially distanced workshops. Set up virtual sharing sessions. Do whatever you can to educate your team members. Along the way, you’ll probably see rising superstars who can be point people for the new system. Identify them and make them the go-to gurus of “their” DX platform.
  1. Keep communications flowing.If you’ve followed all the steps until now, you’re probably humming along pretty well. To maximise the flow of information about your legacy technology transformation, send regular progress updates via text, email or maybe a video message. Be up front about other legacy systems you plan to retire.Being communicative is essential to foster higher employee engagement, especially if your team is now working remotely like so many across the country. Mirrored Media’s Justin Lefkovitch has gone on the record as a consummate over-communicator. In his words, “Nobody complains about being too informed, so clear and informative communication is a good way to begin.”At the same time, be open-minded to getting “word on the street” feedback from employees. You’ll want to hear about what’s working and what’s not. Send out surveys and request one-on-one sessions with people using the latest DX solutions. You’ll get a 360-degree view of what’s happening and how to proceed.

    There’s an old saying: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Sometimes, it’s true. However, that’s no way to run a disruptive company. Often, the kindest thing you can do for your business and coworkers is to say goodbye to legacy technology. That way, you can say hello to lightning-fast workplace capabilities fuelled by your commitment to DX.

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