Revolutive IT™
Legacy Systems and Key Business Initiatives

T his section provides you with a serie of articles related to projects involving at least interest in legacy systems.

Following Atlantis Technologies's view, legacy systems are the foundation for all projects inside a company. Without interest in thoose systems, new developments and initiatives are quite assured to fail or represent a true nonsense.

Atlantis Technologies View

The articles will discribe how legacy systems are involved in other projects, what they can bring and why they are so important. Some key issues when discarding them are also treated.

Legacy Systems and Key Business Initiatives

By William Ulrich (Original text on

Legacy systems have survived mergers, acquisitions, divestitures, re-engineering efforts, technical revolutions, industry realignment and Y2k. These systems, some dating back to the 1960s, remain the mainstay of information management capabilities, even as companies focus on e-commerce opportunities.

With the bulk of a company's information knowledge base locked up in these legacy systems, IT must interface, integrate, migrate and/or retire them before they hinder ongoing business strategies.

Some people think "legacy" is synonymous with Cobol, but there are hundreds of legacy languages, many of which (such as assembler and C) are harder to decipher than Cobol. And legacy systems aren't just restricted to the mainframe. They've expanded to include Java, XML, network environments and a host of evolving categories.

The foremost legacy systems challenge is the need to articulate their value and identify what role they'll play in future information initiatives. Legacy systems are easy to ignore, until IT is forced to confront them. Y2k made us pay attention to legacy systems, and now e-commerce and back-end integration requirements are forcing us to pay attention again. Creating an order-processing Web site is a manageable task, but ensuring that orders are posted, inventory is in stock, fulfillment is ensured, distribution is verified and payment is received requires back-end systems integration. Linking e-commerce applications to legacy systems is a challenge facing numerous industries in the business-to-consumer and business-to-business areas. And this has put the legacy systems challenge back on the IT agenda.

Addressing these challenges requires understanding legacy data and system functionality at an enterprise level and down to a granular level, so any project team can interface with, capture and reuse legacy data and business rules when needed. With a common reuse, integration and migration strategy, project teams could quickly distinguish between valuable, redundant, obsolete and irrelevant data and business rules. A framework for meeting these challenges is essential.

The legacy systems challenge must be tackled at an enterprise level because the installed base of systems and related data is too interdependent to tackle from a one-department perspective. This requires a comprehensive strategy for dealing with legacy systems across business units. Executives must craft a phased transition plan where immediate value can be gleaned from the systems knowledge base, while focusing on long-term goals for these systems.

Long-term goals include, for example, shifting to component-based development paradigms. A central architecture team must drive and monitor progress toward these goals using the systems knowledge base as an enabling tool. Applications management, e-commerce project teams and architecture planning teams should synchronize efforts under this common strategy. This will ensure that legacy systems support - and don't hinder - critical business initiatives.

We share the same vision as the one of William M. Ulrich and we strongly recommend reading his books and visit his web site.

William M. Ulrich ( is president of Tactical Strategy Group, Inc., a management consulting firm specializing in information and business planning strategies.
Mr. Ulrich has more than 24 years of experience in the information management field. His system transformation strategies have been the basis for migration projects worldwide. As author of TSRM, a widely deployed redevelopment methodology, he is viewed as the leading authority on systems transformation for the IT industry. Mr. Ulrich has advised Fortune 1000 companies, government agencies, high-tech companies, and consulting firms on information management, legacy transformation, business continuity planning, organizational change, partner alliances and the year 2000. He is Co-founder and Co-Chair of the eBusiness Integration Conference, bringing cross-disciplinary IT integration solutions to corporate and government entities.

Mr. Ulrich has published three books and hundreds of articles on information strategies. He was formerly a senior manager at KPMG and served on the faculty of Northeastern Illinois University. Mr. Ulrich has lectured internationally to thousands of business and IT professionals and has served as an advisor on the use of intellectual property within the computer field. His most recent efforts have focused on bringing holistic solutions to diverse management initiatives in conjunction with the Chaordic Commons. His latest book is entitled "Legacy Systems: Transformation Strategies" (Prentice Hall - 2002).

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