Why many decommissioning projects fail?

Friday, August 13th, 2021

Proceed team

It is estimated that around 15% of IT budgets are dedicated to legacy system applications. In a world where digital transformation is a high priority in many companies, the financial and resource burden associated with legacy systems stand in the way of progress. Retiring these systems is what is required, but sadly many legacy system decommissioning projects fails.

Why is keeping legacy systems expensive

Firstly, let’s look at why keeping legacy systems is an expensive exercise:

  • Legacy systems can be slow, vulnerable & cumbersome
  • Some systems are no longer supported by vendors
  • Most likely incompatible with the latest technologies/software, hindering innovation
  • These systems typically have excessive hardware usage, driving up costs
  • There is also the unavoidable costs of increasing compliance and legal regulations across many industries and countries around the world, making it essential for the data in these legacy systems to be kept.

Why do these projects fail

The ultimate solution to reduce the cost of maintaining legacy systems, while complying with legal, tax, audit and industry regulations is to move the historical data to a secure platform and then shutting down the legacy system.

Many organisations across the world have initiated decommissioning projects, but in our experience many have failed. Either the project never started, was not completed, stopped mid-way through or in the worst case, actually failed.

Below we have listed the common reasons why decommissioning projects fail:

  1. There is no decommissioning strategy

Whether your plan is to decommission a single system or 100 systems, the absence of a decommissioning strategy is by far the biggest single point of failure for decommissioning projects. This strategy will in its simplest form include plans for data migration, data archiving, data retention and data maintenance.

  1. Engagement with stakeholders

Non-identification (partial identification) of extensive stakeholders and the mismanagement of the stakeholder network is another major pitfall. Understanding who they are and a continuous communication plan is key.

  1. Lack of legacy system knowledge (Key users are not available)

Legacy ERP systems were typically implemented years or even decades before the project and not in use in recent years. In many cases, the key users who possess extensive knowledge on these systems have probably left the organisation or moved to another department. Not having any expertise of the legacy system functionality is another major factor for failure.

  1. Wrong expectations, budget and lack of support from high level management

Generally a decommissioning project is not really championed by a single person. The steering group (C-level) and high-level management typically prioritise the commissioning of new innovative technologies and projects for revenue growth rather than focussing on legacy systems. On top of that, there is a misconception around decommissioning of legacy systems in the sense that it will be a straightforward, fast project that won’t cost anything. After all, don’t you just extract the data and switch off the old system. This sadly is another area that contributes to failures.

  1. Not enough analysis of the legacy systems

Not thoroughly analysing the legacy systems including the data, documents and the usage over the last few years, along with data retention policies and non-identification of PII / SPII and commercially sensitive data are major issues. This not only hinder the project itself, but also poses business risk in future when the business might not be compliant anymore.

  1. Not understanding how decommissioning works

Through the project approval process, queries are raised by stakeholders and system users and in many cases this is due to the fact that they don’t have an understanding of how decommissioning works. There is a misperception that the historical data will not be readily available for users and this results in concerns and can bring a decommissioning project to an abrupt halt.

Having greater insight into why these types of projects might fail, allows for you to be better prepared for your project. The benefits of reducing your legacy systems landscape is clear, it is just about making sure it is done successfully first time round. Proceed Group has many years of experience in the decommissioning of legacy systems, both for SAP and non-SAP systems, so do involve the experts to help you towards success.

To learn more about decommissioning or to learn what you need to do to make your decommissioning project a success, please follow our steps towards decommissioning success.

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