<img alt="" src="https://secure.cold5road.com/218968.png" style="display:none;"> Skip to main content

A legacy system integration strategy is a core component in any successful digital transformation. Learn how to develop one for your business in this article


Building a Successful Legacy System Integration Strategy for Your Business

Posted by Angela Davis on June 26, 2023
Listen to audio version

With the current rate of technological innovation, it’s no surprise that some organizations can’t keep up. Thankfully, the complicated processes of modernizing systems to stay ahead can be simplified through the creation of a legacy system integration strategy.

Image source

While outdated legacy systems can hold businesses back, unfortunately, updating them isn’t as simple as replacing the old with the new. Legacy systems frequently support the day-to-day running of a business, so switching to a more up-to-date alternative can create new, unexpected problems. 

An alternative solution to migrating or replacing your legacy system is incremental migration or legacy system integration. 

But what exactly is legacy system integration, how does the process work, and how can a legacy system integration strategy help your business succeed? 

What is legacy system integration? 

The right legacy integration strategy will deliver interoperability between old and new systems, allowing you to link monolithic on-premise systems and cloud APIs. This enables you to make valuable data and business logic from your legacy applications available for use in a modern system. 

There are lots of reasons why this approach can be handy. As well as being costly, a total migration or replacement of legacy systems can disrupt business operations with compatibility and security issues, the need for training, and, perhaps worst of all, the loss or corruption of important data. Legacy system integration can counteract or reduce these risks by allowing the continued use of older systems. 

Today, legacy integration is being utilized by many different industries. Examples include insurance legacy system transformation, banking, healthcare, manufacturing, retail, and more. 

Defining your integration goals

Before you can begin integration, you will need a clear set of objectives to work towards. A good place to start is by identifying what you want your new system to achieve. 

Identifying integration goals 

The key to creating successful integration goals is to align them with your wider business objectives. Below, we discuss some example aims for a system integration strategy. 

Improving operational efficiency 

Operational efficiency is desirable for any business. When legacy systems are integrated, IT systems that were previously separate and isolated are able to work together and exchange data. This removes the challenges of working with data silos and removes the risk of errors from manually inputting data. 

Interoperability should be a key feature of your legacy system integration strategy. When core legacy systems are connected to digital services, the exchange of data and information can happen in real-time, increasing operational efficiency and helping you to achieve your wider business goals. 

Enhancing user experience 

Image source

User experience is a focus for many businesses, and there’s a good reason for this. Positive user experiences lead to high customer satisfaction levels, a favorable brand reputation, and customer loyalty, which in turn leads to conversions, sales, and improved ROI. One common outcome of a successful integration strategy is better user experiences. 

Imagine you have a new front end based on the latest SaaS software. This could plug into your legacy database, providing users with the advantages of modern SaaS without the risks of replacing your systems. 

Boosting data effectiveness 

When switching to new systems, there’s a danger that valuable data will get left behind. It’s important to remember that this existing data can still be extremely useful. 

Legacy system integration allows you to continue using data from legacy systems. This way, you can enjoy the benefits of both legacy and SaaS sources, which will provide more detailed insights. 

These three examples are common goals for an integration process, however, you should ultimately choose goals that fit your organizational objectives.

Choosing the right metrics for success

Once you have a clear set of goals in mind, you should select metrics to measure your success. The best key performance indicators (KPIs) will differ between companies.

Consider the requirements of your different teams is also a useful way to identify useful KPIs. Some examples could include:  

Senior leaders 

  • Consumption rate. How often are integrated assets being reused and consumed? If assets aren’t being used, this indicates that integration was perhaps unnecessary (or more training is required). If assets are being utilized, which part of the organization is using them most?  
  • Platform utilization. What is the total cost of ownership for each integration? Management will want to ensure that integrations represent a positive return on investment. Having introduced them, how are they impacting productivity and/or customer satisfaction? 
  • Business performance monitoring. Consider key performance metrics for your integrations. These might include new customers by channel, bounce rate, conversion rate, etc. 

Development team 

  • Technical performance monitoring. What is the speed of the API? Consider response times, failure and defect rates, and other important integration areas. 
  • Quality of application. How is the system performing against your qualitative integration KPIs?  You may monitor areas such as process compliance and user satisfaction rates to judge this. 
  • System productivity levels. What were the development hours for integration? In addition, what are the consumption and reuse rates?  

IT management  

  • Platform monitoring. Your Senior IT team will be concerned with measuring the overall performance of the platform. This will include usage and cost statistics, as well as other important information. 
  • Integration quality. Areas such as system incidents (by priority), rework levels, error rates, testing effort, defect levels, and clearance times will be important.
  • Utilization. What’s the traffic across each channel? Which teams are generating this? You’ll also likely want to know the level of reuse for legacy assets.
  • Development efficiency. What was the development, testing, and assurance effort?

Developing your integration strategy

Every effective integration strategy is underpinned by thorough planning. Let’s consider some of the most important steps. 

Assessing business needs 

The integration process can be long and resource-consuming. The first part of planning is to gain a better understanding of your business needs. This means answering the question ‘Why exactly am I integrating?’. 

Integration may be the answer if: 

You need a new system but don’t want the pain of a complete overhaul 

Introducing new technology to an organization can have many benefits—but it can also cause numerous problems. Existing systems may rely on legacy hardware, meaning that important processes may no longer work on the new system. 

Additionally, there may be resistance to change within your organization. Employees are likely used to using your old systems. While a newer alternative may be better, staff will likely favor existing applications. Phased integration may help to reduce this problem by giving employees time to adjust to new systems.

Alternatively, legacy integration is a less drastic option, allowing you to upgrade your systems without the challenges of a complete overhaul. 

You’re concerned about losing access to legacy data 

When migrating to new systems, there is always the risk that access to some legacy data will be made more difficult. You could even lose it altogether. This can be incredibly damaging, as even what’s seen as lower-priority data, which might be missed during an initial analysis, can turn out to be very useful.  

For example, achieved customer data can have uses ranging from improved marketing to better product development. 

You want to improve the performance of your legacy systems 

The right legacy system integration strategy provides the same benefits as a new system, allowing you to refine and improve your existing setup and see improvements across the board. This can include fewer incidents with your hardware and smoother processes overall. 

You’re concerned about the security of your existing systems 

System security is a concern for many businesses. Studies show that 66% of SMEs have experienced a cyberattack in the past 12 months. 

Legacy systems are often updated less frequently than newer models, leaving security gaps that can be more easily exploited by hackers. 

System integration is a useful way to bolster your security and resolve any concerns over data protection. 

Understand your technological capabilities and future needs 

With a clear understanding of exactly ‘why’ you’re integrating, you can move onto the next planning step. This involves assessing your existing technological capabilities. Reflect on the shortfalls of your systems, and ask yourself what new technology is needed to accomplish your integration goals. 

You should also consider how to ensure that key processes will continue to function post-integration. Automation, workflows, and more will all need to be successfully integrated. 

Your goals can be split into three types of legacy system integration patterns. These are:

  • Data consistency. Will data be spread across multiple systems? You need to ensure data remains the same during migration.
  • Composite services. You may choose to introduce a new application that draws data from different systems. 
  • Multistep process.  This can cover a variety of processes that take place across multiple systems. 

Key factors for building a roadmap 

Your roadmap needs to encompass multiple factors. Ultimately, it should form part of your wider digital business strategy as well as address the needs of your tech teams and IT architecture. 

Your focus should be on the systems that have the biggest impact on your growth. Don’t forget to also identify and take action regarding implementation risks.

Consider how digital transformation can help drive business value. When outlining your roadmap, include the following factors: 

  • An assessment of your existing technology 
  • Your various software and architecture options
  • An overall budget for your integration
  • Data migration in legacy system integration
  • A timetable for the integration process
  • Risk mitigation in legacy system integration

Implementing your integration strategy

With a clear roadmap, it's time to begin implementing your legacy system integration strategy. 

Take a phased approach 

Trying to integrate all your systems at once can cause a whole host of problems. Instead, it's better to adopt a phased approach. 

When outlining a way forward, try to be as practical as possible. Consider the achievability of your deadlines, for example if they can be met without creating undue stress for your staff. 

Try to carry out your integrations in order of priority, starting with the most important systems and working your way down. 

Carry out thorough testing 

In-depth quality assurance (QA) testing should play an important role during implementation. You’ll need a detailed test plan and sign-off criteria with all aspects of the system included.

It’s easy to focus on the front end, so make sure that less obvious areas, such as integration middleware for legacy systems and legacy system API integration, are also incorporated.

Instead of implementing your integration strategy across your whole system, it can help to take a  more localized approach. Start by testing it within a specific department and identifying any changes that need to be made. Testing on a smaller scale allows you to more easily refine and fine tune.  

Managing and maintaining your integrated system

Image source


Unfortunately, the work doesn’t end once your legacy system integration strategy is complete. However, a strong integration strategy should help any post-integration step go more smoothly. One important post-integration factor to consider is effective management and maintenance. Let’s look at developing a post-integration plan in more detail. 

Providing post-integration support 

You will need to ensure that you provide effective support after the implementation of your integration strategy. For instance, how can you make the process of adapting to new systems easier for your staff? Below are some suggestions. 

  • Introduce resources to your learning management system. Ensure these can be accessed by employees while on the go. 
  • Bring in an external trainer to provide coaching sessions.
  • Make use of ‘champions’ who know the new systems. Champions can share their knowledge with co-workers. 

Plan for continuous improvement 

Imagine you introduced integration ten years ago. Without a forward-thinking approach, your new system would quickly become outdated. As technologies such as AI and the cloud became more prevalent, your business would have been left behind.  

To counteract this, your legacy system integration strategy must be forward-thinking. Consider how you can integrate new and emerging systems into it, and create an action plan for turning core systems to API products.

Utilize an effective legacy system integration strategy to enhance business performance and efficiency

Every business aspires to grow and achieve success, and these goals can’t be met with sluggish and outdated legacy systems. As we’ve discussed, though, there are a lot of potential risks and difficulties in switching to a new setup. 

The right legacy system integration strategy provides a way forward. Instead of a complete overhaul, you can make choices to achieve a safer approach for your business. Integration guarantees you access to newer systems while protecting legacy data and reducing the challenges associated with change. 

That doesn’t mean legacy integration is always easy. Your strategy needs to be thorough and should encompass key factors, such as testing, implementing, and future-proofing your system. Sticking to the steps outlined in this article will ensure you remain on the right path. 



FAQs about legacy system integration strategy

How do you approach integration with legacy systems?

Start by considering the front-end improvements that are your highest priority. Then, devise a strategy to integrate these with your legacy systems. With good prioritization, you’ll be able to integrate in phases, making the process easier and less disruptive for your organization. 

What are the four types of system integration?

The four types of system integration are: 

  • Point-to-point. This form of integration is best for handling a single business process at a time. It can quickly become ungovernable if you connect too many systems. 
  • Vertical. Systems are integrated based on their relation to one another. Perhaps the biggest advantage of this method is its simplicity. You can integrate multiple systems at once with ease. 
  • Horizontal. Integration is attained through a subsystem that links to all other systems. This method requires fewer connections for system integration. 
  • Star. A series of point-to-point systems are grouped, forming a star shape. This provides plenty of capability but can be difficult to manage.  

What are the main advantages of legacy system integration?

Image source

There are several advantages to legacy system integration. Here are just a few of them: 

  • An increase in productivity due to fewer data silos. 
  • Access to upgraded systems without the need for a complete overhaul. 
  • Less stress for staff due to familiarity with older systems. 
  • Continuity in your business operations.  
  • Risk-free access to legacy data. 
  • Lower overall risk.
  • Quicker access to new systems.
  • Hybrid integration to access legacy systems in the cloud.

We’d love to give you a demo.

Please leave us your details and we'll be in touch shortly