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Learn more about the risks of legacy system integration so that you can avoid the common pitfalls and achieve a smooth transition for your business systems


Navigating the Risks of Legacy System Integration: A Guide for Businesses

Posted by Angela Davis on August 14, 2023
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The term “legacy systems” typically refers to older tech. This could be a computer system or application that now feels outdated in comparison to today’s modern technology. 

Many businesses update their old systems in favor of contemporary alternatives that offer better functionality. However, there are risks to replacing legacy systems entirely. They’re often so deeply ingrained in company operations, that removing them can cause chaos. 

For this reason, some businesses decide to keep elements of their previous system and choose to integrate them with a new system instead. Unfortunately, this introduces its own issues, as legacy tech can have problems with compatibility, compromised security, and so on. 

That said, there are ways of reducing the risk of modernizing legacy systems, which we’ll explore in this article. 

Understanding the risks of legacy system integration

The various risks of legacy system integration come from the joining of an old system with a newer and more developed one. 

This process connects APIs that are both on-premises and in the cloud, using cloud integration to close the network divide. It then retrieves information from existing on-premises systems, before using the newer, better system to drive business moving forward.


A typewriter and laptop.

The impact of these risks on businesses

The impact of legacy system integration risks on businesses can be significant. 

Integration problems can cause system failures and downtime, resulting in reduced productivity, revenue loss, and reputational damage. For example, if your business prides itself on its fast connectivity, lagging issues caused by legacy integration would be a serious blow.

Integration issues can also trigger data loss and corruption, leading to incorrect decisions and financial decline. It’s important to consider such risks when weighing up whether to switch to a new system completely or integrate your old system. Legacy system integration is supposed to help you build financially, so it’s important to ensure that the process doesn’t cause any financial fallout.

Legacy system integration can result in security vulnerabilities too, exposing your business to cyber threats and regulatory compliance issues. 

Proper planning, evaluation, and risk management are necessary to minimize these risks.

The consequences of failing to manage the risks

So, what are some of the consequences of failing to manage the risks of legacy system integration? Firstly, your business could go over budget. Integration projects that are poorly planned or managed can result in significant cost overruns, which will strain your budget and impact the financial health of your business.

In extreme cases, such failings can even lead to your project halting. Integration processes that encounter unexpected issues or obstacles may experience delays, which will impact the ability of your business to achieve its goals and meet expectations. If you can’t serve your customers, their experience and your bottom line will both be impacted. 

If legacy system integrations aren’t properly managed, they can disrupt workflows and processes too, resulting in reduced productivity and efficiency. 

In short, failing to manage legacy system integration risks can cause severe and long-lasting damage. Therefore, it's important for businesses to carefully evaluate the potential fallout and take proactive steps to mitigate it.

Common risks of legacy system integration

There are certain common risks that businesses may encounter when trying to integrate an old system with a new one. It’s important to keep these in mind when planning a legacy system integration and considering services. 

Common risks associated with legacy system integration

There are several risks associated with integrating legacy systems, including:

  • Compatibility issues. Legacy systems may have been built using outdated technology, which won’t be compatible with newer systems. This can lead to integration problems and cause data loss or even system failures.
  • Security vulnerabilities. Older systems may not have the same level of security as newer ones, leaving them vulnerable to cyber-attacks. 
  • Data quality issues. Legacy systems may also have outdated or incomplete data, which will obviously impact the quality of the integrated data. This can lead to errors and incorrect decisions.
  • Time and cost overruns. Integrating legacy systems is a complex and time-consuming process. Integration may require significant resources and investment, leading to unexpected delays and costs.
  • Lack of support. Legacy systems may no longer be supported by their original vendors or developers, making them difficult to maintain and integrate. This can result in downtime or system failures.

The benefit of these risks being so common is that you can take the necessary steps to avoid them when making your own decisions on introducing a new system or integrating a legacy one. 

Be sure to conduct a thorough assessment of your legacy system's compatibility, security, data quality, and support before starting an integration with newer tech.

Mitigating risks in legacy system integration

In business, there are some scenarios where it’s best to avoid risky moves. Changing your entire company's technology is one of them. 

That’s why you need to consider the full picture before starting a legacy system integration.

Strategies for mitigating the risks associated with legacy system integration

Here are some strategies for mitigating the risks associated with legacy system integration.

Conduct a thorough assessment

Before beginning the integration process, conduct a comprehensive assessment of your legacy system. This includes hardware, software, and data. An assessment will help identify any potential compatibility issues or security vulnerabilities that will need to be addressed pre-integration.

Plan for business continuity

Legacy system integration can cause significant business disruption, leading to downtime, decreased productivity, and reduced revenue. To minimize the impact, make a plan for business continuity during the integration process. This may involve deploying backup systems, temporarily reducing workloads, or implementing alternative solutions.

Use common protocols and interfaces

When integrating legacy systems with modern ones, use standardized protocols and interfaces to ensure compatibility. This can simplify the integration process and reduce the risk of data loss or system crashes.

Prioritize security

Legacy systems are often vulnerable to security threats, and integration can potentially expose the entire network to cyber-attacks and data breaches. To minimize this risk, prioritize security during the integration process.  This could involve conducting vulnerability assessments, implementing access controls, or deploying intrusion detection systems.

Upgrade hardware and software

To ensure compatibility and minimize the risk of incompatibility issues, consider upgrading the hardware and software components of the legacy system. This may include replacing outdated components or upgrading to modern software and hardware.

A man studying the internal workings of a computer.

Best practices for managing risks

As well as mitigating the most common risks associated with legacy system integration, it’s important to implement best practices to manage them. Here’s an overview of the top five best practices to help you minimize the possibility of encountering issues during your legacy integration process. 

  1. Develop a comprehensive risk management plan. Identify potential risks and develop a management plan with strategies for avoiding them.
  2. Conduct regular security assessments. Identify potential security vulnerabilities and take steps to address these before they can be exploited.
  3. Test the integrated system thoroughly. Thorough testing of the system will help ensure it’s working as intended and there are no compatibility or security issues.
  4. Train employees on the integrated system. Provide training to employees to ensure they’re familiar with the new system and can use it effectively. This will minimize the chance of human error and increase overall productivity.
  5. Monitor the integrated system. Identify any potential issues and take corrective action as required. This will keep the system secure and ensure it continues to meet the needs of your business.

Examples of successful risk mitigation in legacy system integration

Below are two legacy system integration case study examples from companies that successfully mitigated risks. 

American Airlines

American Airlines successfully integrated its legacy reservation tech with a modern customer relationship management (CRM) system. To mitigate the risk of compatibility issues, the company conducted extensive testing of the integrated system before rolling it out. 

American Airlines also provided training to employees on the new system to minimize human error. This resulted in a successful integration that allowed them to provide better customer service and improve overall efficiency.

Legal & General

A leading financial services group founded in 1836, Legal & General had a long-term modernization and transformation plan that included many different elements.

While leaving “hardcore” systems, such as claims processing, on the company’s legacy IBM mainframe, Legal & General wanted to incorporate the capability to scale using microservices as well as migrate “softcore” ancillary applications, such as document management, to a modern cloud environment.

The project was successfully carried out using the OpenLegacy Hub Platform. By exposing the existing mainframe business logic and functionality through OpenLegacy’s automatic generation of microservices and APIs, Legal & General avoided risks of incompatibility. By partnering with a proven legacy system integration provider, Legal & General also had all the support they needed during their transformation. 

The conclusion of the Legal & General case study has seen the company continue to use its mainframe alongside both private and public cloud environments, resulting in improved performance, speed, time-to-market, and cost, thanks to OpenLegacy’s cloud-native hybrid-integration platform.

Best practices for managing the risks of legacy system integration

We touched on best practices for managing the risks of legacy system integration above, but we’ll go into more detail here. 

Overview of best practices for legacy system integration

Integrating outdated legacy technology with newer systems can be a complex and challenging process.

It requires thorough planning, attention to detail, and the flexibility to adapt to changing circumstances. Despite this, legacy system integration can definitely be worth the trouble, as there are many data processes that legacy systems are essential for.

Best practices we’d recommend include:

  1. Assessing the system
  2. Developing a clear strategy
  3. Using standardized settings
  4. Implementing security measures
  5. Planning for data migration
  6. Training and supporting staff
  7. Monitoring performance

The above guidelines can help you minimize the risks of legacy system integration and increase the chances of successful modernization for your business.

Explaining the importance of these practices for managing risks

This is how each of our recommended best practices can help mitigate common risks.

  1. Assessing your legacy system allows you to identify potential risks that could arise during the integration process. This allows you to develop a risk management plan before they become major issues.
  2. Developing a clear integration strategy ensures that all stakeholders understand the goals and objectives of the integration process. This reduces the risk of miscommunication between parties and helps ensure that the integration process is completed on time and within budget.
  3. Using standardized interfaces helps reduce the risk of compatibility issues between new and legacy systems. This can help you avoid expensive delays as well as reduce the risk of data loss or corruption.
  4. Implementing security measures helps protect company and client data and prevent unauthorized access. This is particularly important when integrating legacy systems that have vulnerabilities, which could be exploited by cyber-attackers.
  5. Planning for the data migration of legacy systems helps minimize the risk of data loss or corruption during the integration process. This helps your business data remain accurate and accessible after the integration is complete.
  6. Providing training and support for your staff ensures they’re equipped to handle any issues that may arise after the integration is complete. Changes to day-to-day business systems can be daunting, but effective oversight of the process will inspire confidence.
  7. Monitoring performance helps identify any issues that may arise after the integration is complete. You can then address these swiftly and minimize downtime. 

Balancing the benefits and risks of legacy system integration for a smooth digital transformation 

It’s not easy taking the leap and switching to a brand-new system. Legacy integration can make this less daunting, as the old, familiar tools can still be used with the upgraded software and technology.

While there are certainly some risks to legacy system integration, as long as you’re aware of these and plan ahead properly, you can achieve a smooth digital transformation with minimal stress.

Why not get in touch with OpenLegacy to learn more?  



FAQs about the risks of legacy system integration

What are the disadvantages of legacy systems?

The disadvantages of legacy systems include:

  • Limited functionality. Legacy systems lack the advanced features and functionality of newer systems, which can limit their usefulness and effectiveness.
  • Compatibility issues. These systems might not be compatible with newer technologies, which reduces their ability to integrate with other systems and platforms.
  • Maintenance and support. These systems often require specialized knowledge and expertise for maintenance, which can be costly and difficult to find.
  • Security vulnerabilities. Without the same security features as newer systems, legacy systems are more vulnerable to security breaches and cyber-attacks.
  • Inefficient processes. They sometimes have outdated processes, which are inefficient and time-consuming. This can lead to delays and decreased productivity.

What are the two most common challenges that enterprises face on a legacy network?

Two common challenges that enterprises face on a legacy network are:

  • A lack of compatibility. Legacy tech isn’t always compatible with newer technology—sometimes it’s simply too old or it’s based on an entirely different system. This is challenging for businesses that want to offer their customers more but are so used to their old, trustworthy system that they feel tethered to it. 
  • Security vulnerabilities. Legacy networks may also lack the advanced security features and protocols that modern networks require, leaving them vulnerable to cyber-attacks and data breaches. As cyber threats continue to evolve and become more sophisticated, legacy tools may not be able to provide the same level of protection as newer systems.

Why is a legacy system bad for business?

Legacy systems can be pretty limited in terms of functionality. They can be bad for business in various ways, including:

  • Limited features. Legacy systems may not have the same functionality and features as modern systems. This can limit the ability of businesses to effectively compete and meet evolving customer needs.
  • Inefficiency. They can have outdated processes and interfaces, which can be hard to work around. It can also be hard to train new staff members to use out-of-date technology.
  • High maintenance costs. Maintaining and supporting legacy systems can be costly, as it may require specialized knowledge and expertise. You could need a team on-hand to assist with any issues you encounter, which could increase in frequency the older a system gets.

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