by Dan Griffith
Sales Director, US and Canada
Replacing legacy systems can be expensive, highly disruptive, and take a really long time. What if there was an alternative? One that enabled you to recycle those systems and modernize your environment quickly? Business process automation can help you do just that.
Replacement is Almost Futile
It’s no secret that organizations struggle with legacy applications. Whether they are mainframe, custom built or simply past their prime, legacy systems are a pain. These systems take up way too much support time, are hard to update (if you can update them at all) and are very difficult to work with. In fact, no one in IT likes to support them.
There is a constant need to upgrade business critical systems, but getting rid of them is nearly impossible. It eats up budget, takes a lot of time and pulls key resources away from the work they should be focusing on.
That’s why there is so much talk about legacy modernization. Legacy modernization is the process of converting or porting legacy applications to modern technologies. You can do this through “rip and replace,” but like I said, that is not easy, or even feasible in many cases.
The answer for many lies in business process automation. Business process automation can help you modernize a few different ways. It can
- Give you access to legacy systems through modern portals
- Support the migration of records and information to less costly alternatives, such as an application archiving system, and it can help you
- Integrate existing legacy systems.
Let’s examine a couple of ways that process automation helps with the modernization of legacy systems.
Out With the Old. Kind Of.
So you can’t get rid of your legacy systems, but you can adopt the practice of “wrapping” them so you can access them as services through modern technology.
When you create a new application using a business process management system, you start by taking a high-level view of the processes your application supports. You look at all the activities, systems and people involved in the process and you think about how they holistically support a business outcome.
Your legacy systems are considered one or more of the activities that you perform as part of the process. So for example, when a customer wants to review and update their insurance policy, you have to go to a legacy application that lists all the policies a customer currently has. Then you might have to go to another legacy application to view current policies rates. Then you might have to look at a third legacy system that lists current claims details against the customer. Finally, you have to put all the information together to determine if you can give the customer a better rate on their insurance policy.
Each of these activities is an individual transaction that takes time and effort. Business process automation enables you to put all of these together into a centralized process flow. This centralization of a process happens by wrapping the legacy application functionality into a service that you then integrate into the overall process.
When you approach application development from the perspective of integrating legacy applications through services, there’s less emphasis on the individual transactions you need to do in different legacy systems and more focus on the overall process.
In the insurance example, you now have a business process that can automatically go to each of the legacy systems and pull back the information from each system for an employee to examine. The process can also automate calculations or rules for the employee. You can take this a step further and develop a customer-focused web-based interface that enables the customer to view and change policies in a self-directed manner.
Out With the Old for Good
I’ve talked about how you modernization legacy applications by wrapping them in services that are integrated into process automation applications. Now let’s look at how you can leverage business process automation to migrate away from legacy systems partially, or completely.
Let’s say you have a legacy system that contains a lot of records you can’t get rid of, but the system itself is outdated, and you really want to move to something that leverages new capabilities, like the Cloud. For example, you want to move from your outdated on premise HR system and adopt a newer cloud-based alternative.
It may not sound complicated at first, but consider all the thousands of records you have in your legacy HR system that you don’t use, but you can’t get rid of for compliance purposes. Do you want to migrate all of these to a new cloud-based system? Number one, it could increase the cost you pay because many cloud-based solutions have a pricing structure that includes storage. And number two, it could slow down the performance of your new system, it certainly seemed to slow down your old system didn’t it?
Your best answer to how to deal with all these records is to archive them in an application archive system. It certainly makes the most sense. Then you migrate all your current records to the new system, and you’re good to go.
But. What if you decide you want to create a self-service portal that requires access to both the current and legacy data? How do you pull it all together easily? The answer is to build your portal application using business process automation. Then you can develop the services that connect to each system and wrap them in an agile process layer used in the portal.
Maybe you don’t want to move to a new system, but the performance of your existing system is getting really bad due to the enormous amount of records you have in it. This process of migrating data to an archive and then connecting it all back together via process automation is your best option.
Process Automation Lets You Recycle or Replace with Ease
To modernize your IT and business, it’s not necessary to replace all your legacy systems. Sometimes it’s not feasible; sometimes it simply isn’t necessary. Business process automation gives you the tools to bring your organization into the present world and enables you to provide employees and customers with modern systems to do their work.
You can wrap your legacy systems into services that are then incorporated into an overall process and make it easier for employees to do their jobs, provide greater visibility into the process and enable the agility necessary to compete in today’s constantly changing market.
You can also choose to replace legacy applications by moving to newer systems and archiving older records. Or you can improve the performance of legacy systems by moving archive data to an archive system. In either case, process automation enables you to bring all the data back together when necessary and ensure you continue to meet governance and compliance rules.
At the end of the day, you have to make difficult decisions on how to move your IT infrastructure into the modern world. Business process automation may just be your answer.