IDG Contributor Network: Don’t ignore the elephant in the room: deal with your legacy systems


Let’s face it: Digital transformation is hard, especially if your organization’s lifeblood rests on legacy systems. Here’s a proven way to get there.

Pity the IRS? As soon as the new tax code was OK’d in late December, it had to start working over the holidays to update tax forms and withholding tables, for taxpayers to notice a difference in their pay stubs by—wait for it—February! It sounds relatively simple to change something like withholding tables—just plug some new numbers into the computer.

But as former IRS Commissioner John Koskinen , even simple changes are complex, thanks to Kennedy-era computer programs the agency uses. “A lot of our forms are hard-coded, so you don’t just enter a little thing in your computer, you actually have to go into the code and change the date or change the forms,” he says. No one particularly cares for the IRS, but you can sympathize.

You know this. At least you are not alone. of these systems out there. Great! Misery loves company but what are you going to do? The staff that knows the most about your legacy systems are retiring. Everything is hard-coded. Trying to make change is like pulling teeth. Hundreds of users only know the forms and processes embedded in those systems. And yet they keep clamoring for new functions and features and can’t understand why you can’t do it easily. And last—the cost of running the infrastructure just seems to get worse—finance is screaming!