Skip to main content
legacy IT

Time to act – tackling the issue of legacy IT

If we can learn one lesson from COVID, it’s that legacy IT is letting us all down

Public sector organizations face a huge challenge when it comes to data. Although they tend to have a treasure trove of it – much of which represents a potentially huge advantage when it comes to policymaking and crisis management – it is frequently impossible for them to make use of it. Indeed, in many circumstances, they may not even know exactly where it’s stored.

For example, the NHS holds a wealth of data, but with no central repository – and relying on Excel to handle it – places severe limitations on its ability to derive insights from it. In fact, almost two weeks after the first lockdown, the NHS still lacked a single source of truth via which to analyze data sources. Severely impacting its ability to understand the spread of the virus and make key operational decisions.

Relying on legacy IT for the management not just of data, but of key organizational and service delivery processes, has the potential to cost thousands of lives. The potential for disaster is perhaps best illustrated by last October’s “Excelgate” scandal, in which using outdated file types resulted in tens of thousands of COVID test results being accidentally deleted.

The pandemic has exposed just how dangerous legacy IT can actually be to effective service delivery. Especially in a crisis. And highlighted the importance of the right infrastructure and processes to make the most of data, resources, and the knowledge and expertise of people.

45% of IT spend in the public sector goes to funding legacy systems – which means 45% of IT spend is counterproductive

Although not all legacy IT is inherently bad, it creates problems far in excess of those it solves. It may create security issues, act as a barrier to good value for money, and create barriers to the effective and regulatorily compliant use of public data. In fact, government data is frequently trapped in old proprietary systems that directly contradict the current guidance on good practice for tech in the public sector.

But perhaps most importantly, it can present a major source of demoralization and dissatisfaction amongst the people using it.

Even before COVID forced large parts of the public sector to go remote indefinitely, computer systems were a key part of the way that public sector staff engage with their work. And with the organizations that employ them. And now, technology is the typical public sector worker’s primary source of interaction with their work.

Beyond simply being “part of the job”, legacy IT may now be a principal barrier to doing the job. Leading to decreased engagement and elevated turnover.

Leaving legacy behind

The think tank Reform has recently published research that contains three key steps the public sector can take as it moves forward with digital transformation initiatives in the wake of the pandemic.

The first is to tackle the issue of legacy IT head on. It’s no longer possible to buy in new solutions and attempt to integrate them into an existing ecosystem that isn’t fit for purpose. (Reform’s report urges the government to explore alternative funding solutions to speed the retirement of legacy systems – including the creation of a dedicated legacy IT fund.)

Secondly, organizations must rethink their strategies around IT purchasing. The rise of public cloud solutions has made the pay-per-use SaaS model of IT delivery far more cost effective, efficient, and secure (in many cases) than traditional on-premises builds. And despite government policy being “cloud first” in practice, spending strategies for IT are still written on the logic of in-house, physical IT hardware.

Thirdly, a cross-government digital skills strategy will be necessary to ensure that legacy systems can be competently retired and their replacements implemented with minimal disruption.

How Unit4 can help public sector organizations to overcome the legacy of legacy IT

At Unit4, we’ve been creating technology solutions for the public sector for 40 years. We’re the preferred provider of ERP solutions to UK local authorities, and our systems are designed with the need of service-oriented public sector organizations in mind.

This, combined with our expertise and considerable knowledge base, means we can not only provide solutions that are fit for the needs of an organization that relies on the expertise of its people to ensure a high quality of delivery. But that we can implement them and help you realise time to value as much as twice as fast as the typical government IT implementation project.

Our recently launched next-generation ERP platform, ERPx, is both fully cloud based and constructed with efficiency of costing and scaling in mind. It’s built around a microservices architecture that leverages recent advances in AI to build intelligent automation into every process your organization relies on to succeed. Relieving your people of much of the burden of admin and providing them with a single source of truth for everything that happens within their shared working environment – letting them focus on the jobs they were hired to do for increased engagement and productivity.

To learn more about our performance, check out Info-Tech’s recent emotional footprint report where we’re ranked one of the top performing ERP vendors worldwide for customer satisfaction.

To discover more about our public sector industry model for implementation, click here. To learn more about our work for organizations in the UK public sector and beyond, click here. And to see what our products are capable of, visit our dedicated public sector resource page here or click here to book a demo.

Sign up to see more like this