CIO Symmetry

May 14 2009   12:58PM GMT

Legacy systems integration: If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em

Kristen Caretta Kristen Caretta Profile: Kristen Caretta

Recently, while researching some information for a story on legacy systems integration, I dug around to figure out how midmarket IT execs determined and measured the benefits of legacy applications — How did they decide what was important? What needed to go? Was it worth investing time in one of the many process acronyms offered (BPM, APM, etc.) to sort everything out?

I asked one midmarket CTO just that — what he uses to justify the existence of any of his legacy systems. His response? “If you are a CTO in the SMB world, you don’t need very organized thinking to detect differences in criticality among applications. As soon as something fails, you get to measure its importance very viscerally.”

TTYL to the APMs, huh?

In sorting through the legacy systems of his 25-year-old business, he has not found practices like application portfolio management (APM) necessary. Quite frankly, he has other things to do. In a large enterprise organization with hundreds or thousands of applications that need sorting and analyzing, portfolio management may prove very useful — necessary, even. But in the midmarket?

This CTO deals with mission-critical applications ranging in age from 5 to 10 years old every day. The systems were chosen and installed by non-IT professionals in the early days of the business. Most (if not all) had no understanding of the virtues of integration — making the application integration process a bit more difficult today.

So for now, it’s about coping with the systems — slowly introducing new applications that will eventually phase out the decrepit ones without a complete overnight overhaul. This includes adopting enterprise-serving resources like an intranet, automated workflows and knowledge bases and bending the legacy applications to fit them.

And when looking for the new applications, he has some for some very straightforward criteria: (1) they do the job and (2) they use architectures that are accessible to the midmarket IT shop.

So, yes, legacy systems probably linger in your IT department — and if you’re like this CTO, that’s OK. He’s not fumbling around with process acronyms to prioritize apps because he doesn’t need to. And at the end of the day, “integration and modernization take a back seat every day to the exigencies of serving our clients.”

Is there an acronym for that?

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