Just like a jockey rounding the corner and riding into the homestretch, we are close to the finish line in terms of our legacy modernization posts. We’ve touched on IP issues, iterative replacement strategies, and learning from the past in previous entries. Now, we’d like to round out our thoughts on modernizing your mission critical custom applications. Again, credit goes to Larry Fitzpatrick (with an assist from Stuart Tweed) for providing these final three best practices:
7. Respect the planning phase
The beginning of the project should be a time-boxed planning phase of slightly tight duration. The goal of this planning period should be the coalescence of a core team and to map out the retirement strategy. For maximum risk mitigation, the core team should have four ingredients: the highest level of skill, sufficient experience to ensure utmost respect for the beast before them, smallest possible size that still has working leadership for each functional domain, and legacy knowledge.
8. Concentrate on the existing business process
Technologists like to concentrate on the system, but the business activity that the system supports is the main point. If you can pick only one set of documents to have, it better be the business process models. A large replacement smells like something “new” to somebody, and is subject to getting hijacked as leverage to change the business. Don’t! A good mantra especially in the beginning is: no new features. Adding features and trying to change the busienss are major risk factors. After the replacement is complete, there will be ample opportunity for enhancement. That said, in reality, the team will discover that the legacy system is failing to meet the business needs today, in some areas. Where it is incomplete, ad hoc business processes and supportsystems will have grown up to compensate for the deviation between business practice and the application. Of course, it doesn’t make sense to re-implement features that aren’t used or inject inefficiency, so go ahead and allow the new system to support the actual business process. But keep a close eye for signs that you’re getting trapped on the treadmill of defining new “wish list” features to add to the new system. If you take the approach that it’ll be cheaper while the patient is open7, you may never close the patient.
9. Address user change management head on
Personnel who support the legacy system are often threatened by a replacement activity and defend the status quo in subtle ways. This antipathy must be co-opted. Get senior buy in. Engage and include stakeholders and actively manage change. Do not overpromise and under deliver, or you will be giving naysayers reason for criticism8. One key user can add years to an already lengthy project by obstructing change, always out of a sense of protecting the business. If the system is already the victim of one or more failed replacement attempts, then you are likely dealing with a jaded set of users who may already have honed their skills of obstruction and change management is even more important.
What’s next for Concomitantly? Dashboards, dashboards, and more dashboards. Starting on Friday, we’ll begin sharing thoughts on how data-driven dashboards are transforming business. Why Friday? Simple. The University of Maryland’s Smith School of Business will host its 10th annual CIO Forum, and we’ll be there sharing our thoughts on how the “new” generation of Web 2.0 technologies, including social networking and online communities, are rapidly transforming the face of business and government. With our president, Larry Fitzpatrick, leading a panel discussion on Business Models and Sector Transformation, and me introducing the FCC’s new chief strategist, Paul de Sa, we will be well represented. If you can make it down to the Reagan building, I’m sure you’ll find the conversation lively, the crowd engaged, and your time, well spent. Can’t make it? No worries; our marketing manager, Lauren Modeen, will be there blogging and tweeting (#cioforum) for us. Be sure to follow her via Computech’s twitter feed.
Posted on Wednesday, November 4th, 2009 at 9:27 am and is filed under Data Driven Dashboards, Legacy Modernization.