| Written by Mark Buzinkay

Legacy systems migration is an important way to push the digitization agenda in any organization. But human resistance can derail the most well-constructed plans. How do you build a workforce that is open to cultural, technological, and organizational change?

In this article, we will discuss the human barriers to legacy systems migration. We will explore the fear of change, the role of comfort zones, and the perception of unnecessary and unproductive change. We will look at how to bridge the gap between IT development and operations and who are Digital Operation leaders. We will also discuss product and business owners in Operations IT and what a legacy system is. 

Legacy systems migration

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What is a legacy system?

A legacy system refers to outdated software or hardware that was once used to serve a company's or organization's needs. These systems can become obsolete over the years due to advances in technology, regulatory changes, or the lack of resources to keep them up-to-date. Legacy systems can be difficult to maintain and expensive to upgrade, which is why many organizations may choose to migrate to a newer system.

Legacy system migration can be a complex process as it involves a wide range of activities, such as assessing the current system, designing and testing the new system, and ultimately implementing it. It can also be a time-consuming and costly process as it requires significant resources to complete successfully. In addition, legacy systems migration can also bring human barriers to the process.

These human barriers can include resistance from personnel due to the organization of the current system or the inability to transition to a new system, as well as cultural problems that may arise with the introduction of new technology or processes. Additionally, individuals may be reluctant to change their current workflows, and the fear of making a mistake can add to the difficulty of the migration process.

Overall, the goal of legacy systems migration is to transition from an outdated system to one that is up-to-date, cost-effective, and efficient. The process can be difficult due to the various human barriers that are associated with it, but with the right tools and processes in place, it can be a successful transition. With legacy systems migration, organizations can ensure that their systems remain compliant with regulatory standards and keep up with the latest technological advancements.

Do you want to learn more about why a legacy process may be a real challenge for improvement?


Understanding the Human Resistance to Change

For businesses to remain competitive, innovation and the ability to embrace change are key qualities. As technology progresses and new systems are developed, the need to migrate from legacy systems is inevitable. But, despite the potential for advances and efficiencies, human resistance to change is a common barrier that can prevent successful migration.

When considering a legacy systems migration project, it is important to understand why people may resist the changes and how to manage this resistance best. Generally, individuals can be motivated by one of three things; a desire to maintain control, a fear of the unknown, or a lack of feeling valued.

The first motivator, a desire to maintain control, can arise when people feel threatened by the prospect of change. Fearful of being sidelined or overlooked, some employees may take a proactive stance and attempt to control how the migration occurs.

The second major motivator, a fear of the unknown, is perhaps the most common reason people may resist migration. Fear of the unknown can be broken down into two concerns; the fear of inadequacy and the fear of loss. On the one hand, individuals may be worried that they do not have the right skills, or enough experience, to handle the new system. On the other hand, employees may be concerned that they will lose their expertise or that their job roles will become obsolete and their current skills will no longer be necessary.

The last and final motivator, a lack of feeling valued, can occur if employees feel they are not included in the migration process. This could be anything from a lack of communication to feeling that their opinions or thoughts are not being sufficiently considered.

By understanding the motivations behind human resistance to change, those involved in a legacy systems migration project can develop a strategy to address the potential barriers. Knowing that fear is the primary motivator for most of these concerns, it is important to provide adequate training and educational resources so individuals feel equipped and empowered to handle the new system. Additionally, creating a two-way communication channel where employees can provide their input and feel valued can go a long way in overcoming resistance. Ultimately, the success of a legacy systems migration project will depend on managing any potential resistance and ensuring the transition is as smooth as possible.


How to bridge the gap between IT and operations

When considering legacy systems migration, it is important to not only consider the technical and operational aspects but to also pay attention to the human elements that contribute to the success or failure of the migration process. An organization’s legacy system migration can be impacted by the attitude of its IT personnel, the organizational culture and even the users of the legacy systems. To ensure a successful migration, organizations must create a strong bridge between their IT development and operations teams.

The most effective way to bridge the gap between IT development and operations is to foster communication between the two groups. This should include open communication regarding issues, challenges, and solutions. Additionally, engaging in regular team meetings and workshops can also help ensure that both groups understand each other's roles, tasks, and responsibilities. It is also important for these teams to collaborate on developing new technologies, processes, and policies to make the migration process smoother.

The success of your legacy system migration hinges on the strength of the relationship between your IT and operations teams. Nurturing this bond is crucial to the process, as any lingering prejudices can lead to failure. Encourage collaboration and communication between the teams to ensure a smooth and successful transition.

Encourage IT developers to experience the operations team's workflow by having them step into their shoes for a day. To ensure a seamless transition, provide assistance and support throughout the exercise. This activity aims to show IT the beauty of operations and has an immediate impact on their understanding of how features are implemented in the field. As a result, developers can compile a long list of quick fixes and additional steps to improve the migration process.

Encourage operations personnel to participate in IT's daily routines and gain an understanding of their tools, work, and meeting modes. This will help operations understand what IT can do easily and what may be more complex. As a result, both groups can share knowledge and best practices to improve the migration process.

Finally, it is important to define the roles and responsibilities of each team in the legacy system migration process. This helps ensure that everyone is aware of the tasks they need to complete and their individual responsibilities. Additionally, it is also important to ensure that the teams have sufficient resources and training to carry out the migration process.

As you could see, it is critical to building a strong relationship between the IT development and operations teams. This means engaging teams in activities and initiatives outside of the migration process. This can include team-building activities and creating an open and supportive environment.


Who are Digital Operation leaders?

One of the major reasons why companies struggle or fail to digitalize their business is due to a lack of understanding by management.

Digital Operation leaders are those charged with the responsibility for managing the implementation of a business's digital transformation. They are highly skilled professionals who can analyze, plan, and orchestrate the necessary changes to legacy systems migration and other technological solutions. They understand the business goals and objectives and have the technical acumen to develop the most effective solutions to drive growth. 

While the skills needed for management positions in operations have traditionally involved managing large teams, understanding operational processes, and communicating effectively with staff, the digital age requires leaders with a new set of skills. However, it's not a matter of completely discarding the old skills in favor of digital ones. Instead, the key is finding individuals who possess both sets of skills and have the right attitude towards digital transformation. This can be a daunting task for businesses, but it is essential for successful legacy systems migration and other technological solutions. Digital Operation leaders, with their experience in software engineering, operations management, and project management, are emerging as key players in this process. They possess the ability to understand customer needs and effectively migrate existing systems and data to new technologies.

When searching for individuals to lead legacy systems migration, it is essential to find those who have stepped out of their comfort zones and gained experience in diverse industries, countries, and careers. Look for candidates who possess a curious and open-minded attitude towards change and have had exposure to software development. These Digital Operation leaders are critical to the success of any digital transformation, as they possess the technical and management skills necessary to drive growth and effectively migrate existing systems to newer technologies.

The acid test comes when you bring your leadership together and explain that you want to automate every single process possible. After a brainstorming session (what can be automated, what not), you will see three groups of leaders emerge:

  • The first group is excited about the possibilities and is eager to embrace change. They are full of initiatives and ideas to propel the company forward.
  • The second group recognizes the necessity of automation but may feel challenged by the process and wonder if they can contribute effectively.
  • The third group is resistant to change and believes that their current processes are sufficient.

You  need quickly empower the first group and train the second.



- What is change management and digitization?

Change management and digitization refer to the process of managing and embracing digital transformation through changes in technology, processes, and people.

- Why is it important for businesses?

Change management and digitization are important for businesses because they allow them to stay competitive in an increasingly digital marketplace. By embracing digital transformation, businesses can gain a competitive edge by utilizing new technologies and processes.

- How can I ensure a successful change management and digitization process?

Successful change management and digitization processes require careful planning, effective communication, and ongoing maintenance. Additionally, organizations should ensure they have the right resources in place, such as technology, personnel, and budgets.


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A legacy system migration poses a difficult challenge for organizations due to the emotional and psychological barriers of human resistance to change. By understanding this resistance, and the various sources of fear that go along with it, companies can learn how to best manage their process of migration. Digital operations leaders and product owners should be identified and given the support needed to help people through the transition. Finally, recognizing that a legacy system is outdated and blocking new innovations is an important step in understanding the need for change. With an informed and well supported team and process, the successful transition of a legacy system can be accomplished.

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