Why do the majority of Legacy System Decommissioning Projects fail? – A comprehensive view with precautions to avoid pitfalls.

There are few statistics across the IT industry which states the maintenance costs of Legacy IT Systems drain IT budget, however they do.  Keeping Legacy systems running in the background should they be needed is an expensive business,  a few of the contributing factors are;

  • Legacy systems are slow, vulnerable & cumbersome
  • No longer supported by vendors
  • Incompatibility with the latest technologies/software
  • Excessive hardware usage
  • Unavoidable costs of increasing compliance and legal regulations across many industries and countries around the world.


The ultimate solution to reduce the costs of maintaining a legacy system while complying with legal, tax, audit and industry regulations is to “Archive the historical data securely & Decommission the legacy system”.  Many organisations across the world have initiated decommissioning projects, very few have been successfully implemented, the majority leaving the project abruptly or didn’t implement to its full potential.   Below is a comprehensive look on Why “Legacy System Decommissioning” implementation projects are not fully successful., the precautions and processes to be followed to avoid surprises will be discussed in a subsequent blog.

1. Missing the Decommission Strategy

Whether your plan is to decommission a single system or 100 systems, absence of a decommission strategy (includes data migration strategy, data archiving strategy, data retention and data maintenance strategy) is by far the biggest single point of failure for a decommission project.
2. Engagement with stakeholders
Non-identification (partial identification) of extensive stakeholders and mis-management of the stakeholder network is another major reason.

3. Lack of Legacy System knowledge (Key users are not available)

Legacy ERP systems were implemented years or even decades ago and not in use in recent years. The key users who possess extensive knowledge on legacy systems have probably have left the organisation or moved to another department. Not having any expertise of the legacy system functionalities is the other major factor for failure of decommissioning projects.

4. Wrong expectations, Budget and lack of Support from High level management

Generally a decommissioning project in an organisation is no ones’ priority. The steering group ( CxO’s) and high-level management generally prioritise the commissioning of new innovative technologies and projects for revenue growth rather than decommissioning legacy systems. On top of that, the misconception around decommissioning a legacy system is pretty simple, straightforward and can be done in quick time leads to wrong expectations, inaccurate budgets and project failures.

5. Under analysis of the legacy system

Non-Comprehensive analysis of legacy systems including the data, documents and the usage over past 1 or 2 years along with data retention and non-identification of PII / SPII and commercially sensitive data is a major issue not only from the legacy system perspective but for the organisation on whole.

6. Lack of Confidence & Approvals from key stakeholders

When a document is sent to stakeholders for approval to decommission a system, a number of queries are raised and usually the stakeholders & legacy system users are unsure about the idea of decommission. This is due to the fact that the conception is the historical data will not be readily available for users and a lack of confidence on the archiving strategy and decommissioning, which leads the project to an abrupt halt.

7. Meagre long-term data retrieval, Data Maintenance & Data Destruction

Planning and blueprinting based on only archiving the data for a legacy system is another major issue. Not analysing the past tax and audit enquiries for the respective legacy system and not having a detailed plan of the data retrieval mechanism, especially for meeting the SLAs and data maintenance strategy including legal holds / preservation notices, tax exceptions along with lack of ultimate data destruction strategy, is an another cause for failure of a decommissioning project.

Download our decommissioning white paper for further guidance


Article by Vidy Gottipati – Proceed Group
Vidy has been working in the SAP Data area for well over a decade, involved in multiple data migration, data archiving projects, recently provided design & blueprint of  an SAP ILM implementation for a “Fortune 500” company to set up a decommissioning factory with over 50 legacy systems which required decommissioning.

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