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  • Suzanne Mucci

Why digital transformation is an evolution, not a revolution


Businesses have long been looking to ramp up their digital transformation strategies, and the pandemic has only increased the pressure. Migration to the cloud is critical to increase agility, enhance digital experiences and keep pace with new technology and trends – yet for many, it’s seen as a daunting process fraught with risk.


Fear of expense, disruption and pushback from colleagues mean all too often, digital transformation projects never make it past the pilot stage – and businesses miss out on the value they bring in improving processes and customer experiences.


The pain of legacy IT


Top concern for many organisations is the complexity of replacing legacy IT systems. In a survey of UK businesses, 29% cited the problems of integrating existing systems into one as the main barrier to digital transformation.


As organisations have grown, merged, and acquired new businesses, the on-premises systems they operate have increased in size and complexity. Often, these technologies are costly to maintain, require inefficient manual input, and are dependent on the knowhow of specialist staff to operate them. Most were never built for the modern world of hybrid work, in which people expect to be able to access apps securely from any device, anywhere.


These disparate systems result in data silos, disjointed user experiences, opportunities missed and customers driven elsewhere. Yet companies are highly dependent on them – and users are wedded to them. Everyone agrees that innovation is critical, but it can be overwhelming simply working out where to start.


A marathon, not a sprint


The mistake is in seeing digital transformation as a dramatic ‘big bang’ that must happen in one fell swoop. Too often, companies are offered replacement as the only option, making it tempting to shelve the adoption of new technology for another day.


And no wonder. The nuclear ‘rip out and replace’ option is wasteful, expensive and ignores the value stored in legacy apps. These systems are a treasure trove of data, built on sound principles, that have been successfully enabling businesses for years.


Rather than throwing the baby out with the bathwater, organisations can build new solutions in parallel with existing tech stacks. This allows the creation of composite apps that harness the power of legacy systems while opening up new capabilities and potentially new revenue streams – a series of quick wins that provide the cornerstone for digital transformation.


Unlocking value with APIs


One way to modernise legacy systems, rather than remove them altogether, is through the use of APIs. These allow different applications to talk to each other, regardless of where they’re hosted, whether on site or in the cloud.


APIs can revitalise legacy apps, making possible new mobile, web and voice experiences. They add security, analytics and scalability to services. They allow you to deliver a better customer experience through user-friendly modern interfaces or mobile apps, using your legacy system to deliver content and process the inputs.


Other solutions simply work on top of existing technologies to quickly create modern new solutions. For example, Okta’s Access Gateway extends modern identity management to on-premise apps, allowing you to centralise access control and visibility across both legacy and cloud applications. Through Access Gateway, users have a single identity for all apps regardless of where they’re hosted. That speeds up login, enhances security and enables people to access services from any device, anywhere – critical in the new world of hybrid working.


Cultural change is a prerequisite


Of course, technology barriers are only part of the problem. Perhaps the biggest challenge is transforming people’s attitude to change – and creating a company-wide mindset that’s open to innovation. Key to this is engaging the users and operators of the legacy technology you’re looking to evolve. Regular, transparent communication can ease people’s fears, allow everyone’s voice to be heard and ensure you’re maximising the value of the information and processes enabled by your current apps.


For a deeper exploration of the human barriers to technology adoption, and how to overcome them, see our recent blog post here.


Transformation, one step at a time


By improving, rather than replacing systems, businesses can build on what they have with minimal risk and disruption – protecting their investment in existing apps while realising the value of innovative new technologies, one step at a time.

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