Digital transformation is by no means an easy feat – according to Dell Technologies’ 2018 survey, 57% of global executives state that they struggle to keep up with the pace of digital change. It is no surprise that this is the case.

Placing digital at the very centre of all business operations is not only a technically difficult task, but it is also costly and extremely time intensive. It requires uniquely skilled individuals, with both a business management and a technical background to spearhead the project and push forward change throughout periods of extreme complexity.

The intense and varied challenges that these projects create has even led to another C-suite position being introduced to the boardroom – the ‘Chief Transformation Officer’ – who’s entrusted to ensure that companies meet their transformation goals and remain responsive to digital change.

The creation of the CTO is indicative of just how much businesses are investing in digital transformation projects. Market figures also support this – the global digital transformation market is growing at a CAGR of over 18% and according to IDC, global spending on digital experiences (DX) will reach a staggering $1.7tn globally by the end of 2019.

However, despite this huge investment in personnel, resources and innovative technologies, many businesses are still struggling to achieve their digital transformation goals. According to research conducted by AppDirect, 90% of the businesses surveyed revealed that they were facing significant obstacles to digital transformation success.

As well as this, IDC’s UK report found that over half (59%) of organisations questioned were described as being stuck in the early stages of DX maturity, or what IDC calls a “digital impasse”. So, what is holding companies back?

Legacy IT: friend or foe?

One of the major barriers to digital transformation success is legacy IT. Legacy technology is prevalent in the majority of organisations due to a long history of complex inherited IT infrastructure. Each new CIO or CTO may never fully comprehend or gain a full view into the extent of the different IT systems that are running on the network. This makes it almost impossible for IT teams to successfully manage the migration over to new technologies.

The major issue is that legacy systems are a hotchpotch of disparate and decentralised systems: virtual machines, hybrid cloud accounts, internet of things (IoT) endpoints, physical and virtual networks and much more.

Many are outside of the control of the IT department, adding an extra layer of opacity and complexity by creating separate data sets. Indeed, IT teams have unique processes to oversee as well, including dedicated and proprietary servers that support a critical business application such as AS400, Mainframes and open VMS. However, these systems do not integrate with each other, let alone support the new innovative technologies that are implemented as part of digital transformation initiatives.

When it comes to digital transformation, legacy IT can put you at risk

Due to its siloed and outdated nature, legacy IT also increases the risks of security vulnerabilities and IT outages. The UK government provides a key example of the damaging effects that legacy technologies has on digital transformation projects. An IT outage occurred earlier this year that lasted several days at the Ministry of Justice, despite the government investing £1bn into digitising the courts.

Outdated, legacy technology was one of the main causes of this disruption. Following this incident, cabinet office minister Oliver Dowden MP stated; “Government, in common with almost every organisation, including the most cutting-edge organisations like Google or Facebook, struggles to a certain extent with legacy systems”.

Dowden continued to state that removing and replacing the legacy systems with more up-to-date structures is the governments’ overall goal. However, for some organisations, replacing legacy systems is not a viable solution, at least not right now, as they remain a core function within the business and are too heavily connected to business-critical servers.

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A ‘rip and replace’ attitude is financially unfeasible for many organisations but the risk of the potential associated downtime, and therefore frustrated customers, makes it an unattractive option for even those businesses that have the capital available for an entire IT infrastructure replacement.

Working with what you have: centralised IT monitoring

Whilst legacy systems are enough to strike fear into the heart of IT teams, it doesn’t have to be such a challenge. If an organisation can’t replace all its legacy technology, then it needs to have a strategy in place to make sure they are secure and resilient. Organisations need to change their attitude towards legacy IT and think about how they can modernise and revitalise the network to work in the way that IT teams need it to.

In order to mitigate against the risks of legacy technologies, IT teams must ensure that they have full visibility into the entirety of the network, enabling them to spot unusual trends and problems caused by legacy IT in real-time. If a CIO can get ahead of the problem, taking a ‘prevention rather than cure’ approach, the risks of legacy IT can be mitigated and become more controllable.

How to mitigate the risks of legacy IT

In order to achieve this, organisations must centralise IT monitoring if they want to have a holistic view of what is going on across both legacy and dynamic IT environments. This isn’t to say that organisations don’t already have IT monitoring tools in place. In fact, a survey conducted by Enterprise Management Associates (EMA) revealed that a large number of organisations have ten or more monitoring tools.

However, each different monitoring tool provides only a fragmented view of the network, and CIO’s are currently unable to drive business value from these fragmented data sets. As a result, EMA found that it is taking IT teams between three and six hours to pinpoint the source of an IT performance issue. In a consumer-driven economy, this is clearly unsustainable for any business to operate successfully.

Only by reducing tool sprawl, and implementing one IT monitoring tool that can oversee all aspects of applications and systems from a single pane of glass, will businesses be able to gain a full picture of system health, availability and capacity in near real-time. Only then will CIOs be able to use data-driven insights to derive business value from digital transformation operations, while continuing to operate with legacy systems on the network.


Read more: Michael Dell on digital transformation: ‘Black Mirror tells us what not to do’


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