In this blog, Steve Hopkins explains the options to overcome the fear and challenges that come with transitioning your legacy applications.

Legacy applications are a growing issue

Digital transformation isn’t just a current ‘buzz phrase’ – it is a necessity as more and more public sector organisations realise their estate is becoming increasingly clogged due to legacy systems. As well as the mounting cost to operate and maintain these systems, usually they go hand in hand with problems such as the inability to access and use the data they hold, concerns regarding their security and vulnerability to cyber attacks. 

Despite the growing amount of guidance and policy, and the huge benefits that could be realised (including data access, integration, innovation and automation), fear of change as well as cost of change and resource availability remain blockers to transformation.

The good news is that there are options to help you overcome these challenges without a significant drain on resources and budget. Many of our customers have been through this process and, as a result, we can now share best practice and helpful contacts with other organisations that want to embrace the benefits of digital transformation.  

For local government specifically, there are options available for further resources and support, such as the Local Digital community, Socitm and the local CIO Council. In addition, there are various CCS groups and forums, such as the Software Buyers Group, Regional Communities of Practice, and the Digital, Data and Technology (DDaT) Buyers’ Community of Practice, which is itself supported by an online group at Government Commercial Function’s (GCF) Knowledge Hub. Although it can still seem an overwhelming undertaking, these groups, along with our procurement support and guidance mean that the journey can start without a huge commitment of resources, and a clearer picture of timelines and resource required can be built far easier than in the past.

Steps to a successful transition

Often the key to a successful transition of legacy systems is understanding which systems can just be migrated, and which need to be replaced or retired. A combination of pre-market engagement with suppliers and engagement with these forums can take the sting out of the work required for this discovery phase. It is important to start by asking the following questions about your legacy estate: 

  • is the system part of your technology road map?
  • will it continue to be useful? 
  • are there advantages to moving it to the cloud? 
  • does it need to integrate with other systems? 
  • what are the training repercussions? 

Answering these questions will put you in a strong position to prioritise how you proceed and give a clear steer on your desired outcomes as you begin your transformation journey.

Assessing the system or application might not be as arduous as it first appears – several cloud hosting providers can provide migration tools and assessment toolkits free of charge. If you choose to migrate rather than replace, it’s important to avoid easy ‘lift and shift’ migration options that will leave you with higher operational costs and potentially unnecessary data charges. If moving to the cloud is the main focus of your transition, it’s worth checking out our recent news story on helping the public sector move to the cloud.

Replacing legacy systems can certainly be a daunting outcome , but you are not on your own. We also have a new series of articles to help you overcome common hurdles, understand key concepts, and make your life as a buyer of common goods and services easier. Take a look at our Procurement Essentials articles, particularly on pre-market engagement.

Avoiding lock-in

Supplier lock-in is regularly discussed, but it is not always easy to avoid. The golden rule is to discuss exit strategy early, and ensure the costs of exiting or changing supplier are clearly laid out in your procurement contract before finalising it. Tips on transitioning to cloud are relatively easy to find and include: 

  • make sure applications are portable
  • check that you will own your data
  • discuss withdrawal and avoiding excess data charges
  • explore multi-vendor strategies

It is more difficult to avoid lock-in for software when you need to navigate the tricky road of intellectual property, end-user training, security and integration with other systems. However, similar guidance to above is relevant and can help you avoid a lot of issues. It is vital that a new system is checked in advance to ensure that data added is accessible and portable.  

When considering different marketplace options, a joined up IT and procurement team can be incredibly effective. Taking this approach means that procurement evaluation can include detailed questions on the underlying software such as open source, ongoing maintenance, free added value service, and how much of the training and skills required to use and operate the software is transferable to other systems. A strong link between the 2 teams can also help build a clear technological roadmap. This enables the procurement team to evaluate for future development opportunities including integration with other systems that are being replaced or migrated, ability to run on multiple platforms or operating systems, and suitable user access using virtual desktops.

Find out more

To find out more about how we can support you with other areas of digital transformation, download our new guide. You can also visit our dedicated local government digital transformation web page

You can explore some of the funding available for organisations looking to digitally transform using specific vendors on our Technology Memorandum of Understanding webpage. We currently have opportunities across cloud, software, technology products and services and networks. If you would like to have a discussion with our team, please get in touch by completing our online form quoting ‘Technology MoU’ and we will get back to you.