Can digital decoupling turn IT organisations into heroes?
- Posted on September 13, 2021
- Estimated reading time 5 minutes
These days, being an IT organisation in a large Australian corporation can be a thankless task. The business expects IT to find a way to avoid being supplanted and surpassed by digital natives. But rapidly transforming their legacy systems isn’t an option.
The business doesn’t understand that these are two brutally counterposed realities. As a result, IT organisations get little recognition for the impossible situation they find themselves in.
Stuck between a rock and a hard place
The arrival of digital natives has put traditional players under extreme pressure to accelerate digital transformation to match rich, seamless, omni-channel customer experiences of nimble new entrants – and their speed to market. It can take months for organisations running critical applications on legacy monolithic platforms, such as mainframes, to launch a new product, by which time digital competitors have already captured the market and moved on.
Equally, organisations still operating green screen terminals or other legacy UIs may fail to match the slick employee experience offered by digital natives, with their collaboration platforms, automated workflows and ability for employees to interact with data. In the war for talent, having access to empowering workplace technology is increasingly becoming an important differentiator.
These issues aren’t new, but COVID-19 has dialled up the pressure, underscoring the importance of digital transformation to drive business success. Recent research has found companies that doubled down on technology innovation during the pandemic are getting an extraordinary reward. These leaders are now growing revenue five times faster than lagging adopters – significantly extending their growth advantage over competitors.
IT organisations know this, but their large, monolithic legacy systems are critical to revenue generation and can’t just be casually ‘lifted and shifted’ into the cloud. Some are notoriously difficult to migrate without modernisation. Others simply cannot be hosted in the cloud at all.
For institutions with thousands of apps, the time and cost of rewriting or replacing them is prohibitive – not to mention the sheer complexity and attendant risk involved in moving decades-old, mission-critical systems.
Take an omni-architecture approach
There’s no silver bullet to solving these issues. Some large organisations have cut their losses and launched their own digital natives – spinning up completely separate brands that sometimes overlap with their own traditional offerings. It’s a drastic response and one that established brands with large customer bases are unwilling to take.
Instead, traditional players are increasingly looking at a new way to quickly wrap contemporary technology around a legacy core without the pain of wholesale migration.
Digital decoupling is an innovative, cost effective, low risk means of achieving the best of both worlds. While the legacy system remains operating in the back end, digital decoupling uses APIs and abstraction to allow back-end systems to connect with modern interfaces.
Finally, IT organisations can rapidly build a scalable, flexible and resilient architecture that gives the business the agility it craves. Meaning traditional players can take advantage of the latest digital advancements, allowing them to compete on equal terms – and get to market with new offerings in weeks, not months.
Having systems decoupled also helps organisations to open their ecosystem to third-party service providers, creating new digital customer journeys beyond their core products and services.
Meanwhile, IT departments get breathing space – the potential to delay a complete legacy replacement for as long as needed. As more systems are decoupled, it’s possible to eventually evolve towards an ever greater, service-based IT architecture that further increases agility.
This approach helps manage costs, diminishes the accumulation of technical debt and significantly reduces legacy transformation risk when the time comes to replace the core system.
A winning formula for successful decoupling
To execute a decoupling strategy organisations, need new capabilities: a robust DevSecOps driven culture, domain-driven design experience, microservices and event-based architecture knowledge, and a strong understanding of cloud platforms and the open source technologies that run on them.
Using these capabilities, you can:
- Make data accessible: Creating an intelligent data backbone that is synchronised, structured and accessible
- Often done via one-way replication into a Data Lake, tracking key events in the legacy system using Change Data Capture toolsets and re-routing read scenarios away from the legacy system.
- Leverage cloud-native API toolsets to promote an open ecosystem of functionality, while reducing direct access to the legacy systems. Focus on standard data contracts that avoid inside knowledge of legacy system behaviour.
- This creates the backbone of a new customer experience, allowing other parts of the organisation to instantly tap into key events that may not have been exposed in past.
Compared with wholesale migration, these tasks are fast, relatively easy and low cost.
Then you can build the user experience layer, which sits on top of the abstraction layer, and press ‘Go’. Now, modern UIs for web, mobile, or voice (which often depend on APIs and data streams) can consume data from the backbone and integrate with legacy systems as needed.
When combined, these strategies allow organisations to unlock the potential of data stored in operational systems, by running analytics, dashboards, visualisations and other big data processing for better decision making, enabling a 360 view of the customer and driving the next generation of supply chain efficiency. And, just maybe, IT organisations will finally get to be recognised as the heroes they are – as growth enablers, not cost centres.