Just about any company that has been around for more than 10 years has legacy systems in place. Some of those systems serve their functions well and are not likely to be undone any time soon. There is a time and place for a relational database to do its job, but before long, pulling data from existing CRM and ERP systems and merging it with newer types of data stores becomes necessary. The challenge is building a data bridge between the old and the new.
We must first consider the dimensions of the legacy systems. The first dimension is the data itself. The data from legacy systems is typically relational data from CRM, ERP, and other enterprise applications. The second dimension we must consider is the infrastructure. Legacy systems tend to be on-premises, behind firewalls in a bounded and constrained infrastructure.
The modern data warehouse is made of both structured and unstructured data coming from multiple sources into hybrid systems that may be off-premises in a cloud. The data and the infrastructure is unbounded—the opposite of a legacy system. Therefore, the bridge between the old world and the new world can be complicated and intimidating, especially when most IT teams are already very busy with maintenance, bug fixes, and just keeping things running. Tackling such a comprehensive shift can be daunting.
First, the good news. Don’t rip out and replace what you have. Instead, look for ways to build a hybrid out of the old and the new. My advice is think cloud first. It’s the key to moving forward, so the cloud should be your default for placement for new applications when feasible.
Second, start with non-mission-critical applications. A good way to start blending legacy data with newer sources is to embrace social and mobile data. You don’t have to disrupt your old CRM systems to start capturing input from social media and mobile applications. Social can give you extra insights into customer feedback and sentiment. Perhaps use a mobile application for employee directories and benefit information. These are options that will not impact your revenue-generating systems, but will help you start integrating new information that can please customers and employees.
When it comes to more advanced and modern data systems, one must consider that big data stresses the three Vs: volume, velocity, and variety of data. As we collect more data from various sources, advanced tools are the only option. And the cloud is a must-have for most companies dealing with big data. Twenty years from now, every application will most likely be in the cloud and on-premises systems will fade. Therefore, the only reasonable long-term option for new applications is the cloud. All applications have a shelf-life, so as new applications replace the old, put them in the cloud, be it public, private or hybrid.