Keep, migrate, redesign or shut down? Deciding what to do with legacy systems is one of the most common decisions a CIO faces. Many scenarios can lead a CIO and his or her team to decide to retire an application or make a fundamental change to it: changes in corporate strategy or business processes; a merger, acquisition or business closure; government mandates; the lure of a promising new technology; or the demise of a vendor or product line. But if the wrong migration option is selected, a company can be burdened with unnecessary expenses, lost data, or a system that is a white elephant. Even worse, a company's business strategy or a fundamental business process can go begging for adequate technical support.
This whiteboard was developed to help IT executives determine whether to keep, retire or change a legacy system. The decision tree on the following pages allows an executive team to examine retirement criteria including business value, data relevance, integration, redundancy, dependencies, operating risks and costs, and migration risks and costs. These criteria then lead the team to several distinct choices. Retirement can be simply a matter of turning off a system. But it can also involve various replacement options. Keeping a system may mean keeping it without modification, moving the application, or redesigning or consolidating it.
This whiteboard also includes guidance for analyzing related costs and determining potential risk factors involved in a retirement decision. However, it does not include criteria for deciding whether it is best to build or buy a new system when replacement is the recommended option, or discuss how to implement whichever legacy system option is selected.
The whiteboard comprises four PDF pages that can be printed out on standard 8.5" X 11" paper.
William M. Ulrich is president of Tactical Strategy Group, Inc., a Soquel, Calif.-based consultancy specializing in information management strategies (www.systemtransformation.com)