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At a time when IT is being driven to deliver business benefits at an ever increasing pace, justifying a costly modernization programme, with relatively small tangible benefits, can be a daunting task. Opposition can come not only from within the business, but also from within IT itself.
Most large organizations have stringent financial controls around large projects, with demands around a three or five year payback. In cash terms, a modernization project can rarely deliver to these targets, however, a creative programme manager can put together a compelling case based on hard facts and future projections.
The following list is a “Top Ten” of areas to look at, but it is by no means exhaustive, and many organizations will have their own unique circumstances to justify the cost of modernization.
- Vendor costs. In some cases, for instance database migration, this can be the biggest single benefit, particularly if an organization already has an instance of the database being migrated to. Other areas to consider here are ISV licensing costs. For instance, can annual costs be reduced by changing platform and/or tooling?
- Skills. The reasons for modernization are numerous, and one of the most prominent is the ageing technology. With this comes a diminishing pool of skilled resources, both internally and in the marketplace. Training in older technologies can be hard to obtain, and can also be varying in quality, with, for instance, ex programmers turning their hand to training as other opportunities dry up. Internally, staff can be very protective of the systems and technology that they have nurtured over many years, however this should be seen as part of the problem rather than a reason not to do it, with training in newer technologies being a motivating factor for the employees. The danger of retaining the technology and the staff is that eventually the people will move on or retire, whilst the technology will remain, eventually becoming unsupportable.
- Staff. Cross training staff to the latest technologies can be expensive, with the added danger that the newly trained staff will suddenly become much more marketable. This can be seen as a major risk, however, on the positive side of this argument, an organization that embraces newer technologies and keeps its staff well trained is far more likely to attract good quality candidates from the marketplace.
- Strategy. In a world where complexity seems to increase almost daily, how agile (with a small ‘a’) are your systems? Compare the cost of building function points in newer technologies against existing, particularly around the areas of integration. Can the current database be easily accessed by the newer applications? How difficult was the first integration exercise? As newer technologies become more widespread, this integration is likely to get harder and more costly.
- Local knowledge. This can be one of the biggest blockers to modernization, as “only Johnny knows the application”, but Johnny has a vested interest in keeping his knowledge to himself and is very much against the modernization approach. This can be especially true where a third party is involved in the modernization project, as the “we can do this ourselves” mentality kicks in. In these cases the modernization should be seen as a learning exercise, with the local knowledge being spread across the project team as part of the testing effort.
- Vendor Support. When was the last time you saw your sales representative or got invited to a user conference? Is the vendor still in business and are they still actively enhancing and marketing the product? Is there still an active user community? Lack of product development can often be dismissed as “it works so we don’t need it enhancing”, but this can be a very short-sighted approach. For instance, does it take advantage of 64 bit architecture or is it still languishing in 24 bit mode? At some point, as operating systems get upgraded to faster and more functionally rich versions, legacy applications or databases may simply not be compatible and will stop working, effectively halting the upgrade of the remainder of the estate.
- Product stability. Where modernization is required, the product is often very stable and this is not really an issue. However, if thereis a problem an organization can be exposed if the only support can be obtained from the local knowledge (see above). If a problem is encountered in a product that is being actively developed and marketed, it is almost certainly going to attract the full attention of the vendor, as well as having recent knowledge of the application or product within internal project teams.
- Tooling. Major tools vendors will ensure that their tools will work with all of the latest developments in platforms and technologies. The productivity gains provided by, for instance, automation tools can be significant, but that is another discussion. The point here is that with older technologies and platforms there is not even the option to purchase tooling as, in many cases, it is quite simply not available.
- Training. The case for training is very similar to that for tools. Most vendors will provide training as part of an implementation and rollout strategy. In the case of your older technologies, this training is quite likely to be non existent, or is provided by an ex technician who has decided to turn their hand to training. Sometimes this can be beneficial as the trainer passes on a wealth of knowledge, but do they really have the training skills?
- Cost of doing nothing. Add all of these points together and a robust case can be made for modernization. The most compelling is probably the implication of putting off the exercise. In five years time the people who can help in the modernization effort, both internally and externally, may not be around. The platform or technology could well have become so outdated that it inhibits business growth, and whilst there is still the capability to make enhancements, these are becoming increasingly difficult and more expensive in terms of system knowledge and complexity of integration.
Legacy systems and mainframe support
Through our extensive range of partners, we can provide language conversion for many programming languages. Our database expertise covers many file systems and platforms, and our services include automated database file definition, data migration and cleansing, script conversion, performance tuning and functional testing. Legacy IT Consultants Limited have many years experience addressing these technical challenges. We can execute your programme from business case right through to completion.
Legacy IT Consultants Limited provide a full end to end mainframe consultancy. We have been providing bespoke components for many years, on a variety of platforms and covering multiple technologies, but we realise that as the move towards modernization gathers pace the poor old mainframe world is in danger of getting left behind.
The resource pool of mainframe staff is dwindling, a situation that we are keen to address, and we have put together a series of comprehensive solutions to meet the needs of even the most demanding mainframe installations.
At an individual level we can supply architects, database administrators, operations staff, project managers, systems and business analysts, developers and testers. Yes, we can even provide expertise in Assembler!
From a project perspective we can provide a managed development or testing service, as well as analysis and documentation for technical and business processes that could include a deep dive into code, scripts and databases.
All of our consultants have extensive mainframe experience, as well as a wider exposure to distributed applications and platforms. We specialize in modernization and migration, but we also offer full life support for your critical mainframe estate.
As a growing organisation Legacy IT Consultants Limited have established an extensive network of technology and service partners, a network that continues to grow, and where we cannot provide the final solution, we can recommend partners and tooling that are the best fit for your requirements. This encompasses rewrites, refactoring, packaged solutions, migration, and any combination in between.
Most managers within IT will encounter a migration or modernization project maybe once or twice in their careers. We deal with it on a daily basis. We have extensive experience in retail, wholesale, financial services, insurance and many other sectors.
Our latest contract is with IBM and Tata Steel in the Netherlands, supporting their IBM Mainframe and Cincom’s Supra database and Mantis language.
Our hot topic! Legacy IT Consultants Limited have many years of expertise and knowledge in delivering business and systems change specifically related to regulations such as the Data Protection Act and PCI, and most recently in response to an S166 review under the scrutiny of the FCA. Our latest hot topic is the GDPR, and we are currently active in two sectors. We are also very active in the GDPR world.Read more about GDPR
Database Migration and Language Conversion
Through our extensive range of partners, we can provide language conversion for many programming languages. Our database expertise covers many file systems and platforms, and our services include automated database file definition, data migration and cleansing, script conversion, performance tuning and functional testing. Legacy IT Consultants Limited have many years experience addressing these technical challenges. We can execute your programme from business case right through to completion.Exceuting a legacy modernisation project
Software testing can make or break a project. Get it wrong and you can either break your budget or miss critical defects. We can supply fully certified testing professionals, from Test Managers to Test Analysts, or we can provide a full service testing function, covering any or all of Functional Testing, Integration Testing, User Acceptance Testing and Performance Testing.
Business Process Analysis
Understanding your systems is often the first step to achieving your business goals. We can support and enhance your existing business analysis capability, and introduce appropriate tooling to ensure that your business process analysis capability is accurate and efficient. If you are new to business process analysis, allow our experts to guide you along the path to success.