Legacy Systems Modernization


Legacy Systems Modernization

Can your company’s current technology support the innovation being created by your business leaders? If not, your company is ready for a legacy modernization. Legacy systems are not necessarily old in terms of age, but they all have the characteristic of slowing down your business and preventing/slowing your business’s ability to change and to innovate.

“Having experienced the trauma of legacy modernization, we get you through what is often a grueling process. Every modernization has its own unique challenges based on corporate history, culture and technology, and the pitfalls of all major projects apply to legacy modernization projects as well. However, the pitfalls of modernization projects commonly fall into several areas that we can help navigate.”

Define Success

This can be difficult, but if the objectives, timeline and project cost are identified in the business case – yes there should be a business case for any major project – then success can be clearly defined and include benefits to existing customer (and how the customer pain points will be overcome).


Know what you need and why you need it, and distinguish needs from what you may want.  Don’t start a project until it is clear internally what you need and all critical parties are agreed on the objectives and priorities. Nothing delays a project more often – and raises the cost – than unknown, or significantly changing, requirements. Understand that the ripple effect of a changed requirement can not only bring development to a halt, but can require completed work to become obsolete. Legacy requirements are different from other project requirements since they often need to incorporate some existing system features as well as customer behaviors. Understanding the system impact on customers – positive and negative – is a critical component of legacy modernization and leads to another common pitfall of modernization projects, customer communication.

Customer Communication 

Preparing customers for change and managing their expectations is important and should begin early in the process.  Many customers will have ideas on how to improve your product – they can be a great source of innovation, so it is worth listening as you are developing requirements. Honest communication is the key and allowing proper time and resources for customers to make any adjustments to the new environment must be part of project success.  Clarity of communication will maintain or improve upon your relationship with your customers and increase your opportunity to keep their business if there are bumps in the road during implementation.


Identify an executive champion for the project.  Establish an internal team to manage the project with representatives from appropriate departments.  The team should meet timely with sub-committees needed for very large projects. Be committed to the objectives, and this team will address the bumps in the road which inevitably come with large projects.

Vendor Selection


Are your current vendors bidding?  Should they be considered? If current vendors have become complacent, you may want to exclude them from bidding or require a new team or new executive sponsorship from that vendor. Don’t let comfortable relationships bias your opinions. When deciding on vendors to support the modernization, make sure they are good fit for you, but also that your firm is a good fit for them. If your project is expected to be $5M and their average project is $20M, you may be too small a gig for them.  They will say, “no project too small”, but this could be a problem down the road when fighting for resources with one of their larger projects that is in distress.  You may still wish to proceed, but consider incorporating T&Cs that protect your project. Tie vendor success to your success.

Vendor Communication 

Often times with major projects direct communication among your vendors is a critical component to success.  This should be captured in the planning and the vendors should have identified it in their plans/contracts.  If they did not, it could be a sign that they do not understand the complexity of the effort.  Be clear with vendors – what you need, your priorities should be understood by your partners from the beginning.  You have trusted them to build this major system critical to your business, ask as many questions as you can think of before you sign a contract, add milestones that make sense.  Many executives want to keep their “cards close to the vest” when dealing with vendors, but this often leads to miscommunication or lack of understanding.  That does not mean you have handed over the keys to your business – and make sure they know that too!

We have been through the process!  We know the pitfalls, understand the tradeoffs of functionality, flexibility and finances and can help break down the drivers.

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