Ageing and increasingly costly legacy IT systems are one of the biggest headaches that hinder business transformation and drain tech budgets, according to UK IT bosses.

Analyst Gartner warned in its 10-year technology vision earlier this month that those businesses which remain shackled to their creaking legacy systems will find it hard to compete in the future tech landscape and will increasingly find themselves overtaken by more fleet-of-foot start-ups.

More than half (seven) of this week’s 12-man CIO Jury IT user panel agreed and said that legacy IT systems are one of the single biggest challenges and obstacles to business transformation today.

Not surprisingly, most of those who face the toughest legacy IT challenges are in the financial services sector.

Yawar Murad, CIO at GE Life, said: “This transformation has been tried many times and it isn’t easy – businesses should consider implementing a service oriented architecture to help expose and modernise business processes that have had a lot invested in them over time, while working to sunset these legacy platforms.”

Graham Yellowley, director of technology at investment bank Mitsubishi UFJ Securities International, said legacy systems are heavily ingrained within financial services and are difficult to leverage out. But he warned that the legacy processes behind these systems also need changing.

Les Boggia, division head of IT at Carole Nash insurance, also agreed but said that while legacy systems might be annoying “they do usually do the job”.

Legacy system frustrations are not just confined to financial services, however.

Luke Mellors, IT director at the Dorchester Hotel, said: “It’s killing me because often it isn’t just the legacy system it is the legacy people who operate it, the legacy processes that are embedded in your organisation because of it, a legacy mindset of apathy related to it and finally the stifling of creative thinking that legacy systems seem to encourage.”

But others on the CIO Jury disagreed. Kevin Fitzpatrick, CTO at Manpower, said bad – rather than legacy – systems are the problem.

He said: “Focus on the contribution, current and future business fit – not the technology or age. If the application has a high contribution then it may be worth replatforming or some other appropriate upgrade or refresh.”

Ian Auger, IT director at ITN, said if it’s not broken then why fix it. “We have a mixture of old – not more than seven years – and new systems, running each, addressing specific business needs. We spend more time deploying and supporting the leading-edge systems than looking after the older ones,” he said.

Christopher Linfoot, IT director at LDV Vans, said the value of legacy systems depends on the definition of legacy.

He said: “Too often ‘legacy’ is a fig leaf used to disguise lack of planning. Witness the large number of companies still using unsupported versions of Microsoft Exchange.”

Today’s CIO Jury was…

Ian Auger, IT director, ITN
Les Boggia, division head of IT, Carole Nash
Michael Elliot, IT director at Hasbro
Kevin Fitzpatrick, CTO, Manpower
Paul Haley, head of IS operations, The British Library
Tony Johnson, IT director, Virgin Megastores
Christopher Linfoot, IT director, LDV Vans
Luke Mellors, IT director, The Dorchester Hotel
Yawar Murad, CIO, GE Life
Rob Neil, head of ICT, Ashford Borough Council
Peter Ryder, head of ICT, Preston City Council
Graham Yellowley, director of technology at Mitsubishi UFJ Securities International

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