The Weight of Legacy Systems and Processes

Digital transformation has made it imperative for leaders to find effective ways to modernise legacy systems and processes, ensuring that the right tools meet the needs of businesses, employees and customers. According to the DocuSign Digital Maturity Report 2023, one of the main reasons people consider leaving their roles (31%) is frustration with systems and processes. Removing friction from legacy processes is vital. 35% of responders believe that reducing inefficiencies from manual processes would deliver a faster time to value and significantly impact an organisation's performance and productivity. Ronan Copeland, Group VP and General Manager, EMEA, at DocuSign, says,

“The current macroeconomic challenges are such that assessing the efficiency of internal processes is a key strategy to increasing ROI and maximising expenditure. This can be achieved by assessing which manual and outdated tasks and processes across the business ecosystem can be eliminated by simply going digital. By instilling a strategy of evaluation and change, organisations, regardless of size, can energise employees through smarter ways while delivering faster times to value for the business.”

The impact of legacy processes

Manual processes can have a tangible impact on an organisation’s success. The accelerated pace of change, whether in the form of shifting macroeconomic uncertainties or the quickly emerging AI disruption, is putting increased pressure on internal processes to achieve more with less. 

Gartner forecasts that Worldwide end-user spending on cloud services is due to grow 20.7% to a total of $591.8 billion in 2023, up from $490.3 billion in 2022. This is higher than the 18.8% growth forecast for 2022. Investment in modernising legacy processes with cloud technology is viable because gaps and legacy components in an organisation’s digital infrastructure can leave businesses ill-equipped to deal with today’s fast-paced and high-pressure markets. Gartner suggests many ways to modernise legacy systems.

What is a legacy system?

A legacy system is an older, dated system, technology or software application that continues to be used by an organisation. This might be because it still performs the function it was initially intended for. Usually, a legacy system is without support or maintenance or may have limited support. It might also prohibit growth within a company or fail to integrate with new software a company is using.

What are legacy systems, and why are they still used?

Legacy systems are often used because they still fit a business requirement, because of a lack of company modernisation, or lack of skills to embrace the latest software or data management. Sometimes, a company cannot undergo a migration from a legacy system to a new one because they haven’t allocated budget or resources. Investment in new systems and software is a risk because they impact company resources, time, data security and budget. Sometimes, technology can move faster than the company is able to. 

The Digital Maturity Report shows that a third of those who already plan to leave their jobs want to work for more digital-forward companies because they are frustrated with the current systems and processes they are required to use. Many repetitive and manual tasks cause friction and take away from employees' time to work on strategy. 

Business leaders increasingly favour gains through digitising processes rather than huge technical investments. If existing processes need to meet new requirements imposed by digital, they should be modernised to keep pace and enable your employees to work in an agile way. Legacy processes can be a weight for organisations because they impact security, reliability, performance, employee experience and customer experiences.  In fact, the DocuSign Digital Maturity Report demonstrates that 62% of decision-makers believe they are currently focused on digital improvement or modernisation strategies that improve the use of digital tools already deployed rather than changing the way technology is used across the business. Growth will come from removing outdated processes in favour of digitally enhanced solutions designed to improve efficiencies while reducing costs. Organisations are looking to reduce manual intervention, with many looking to automate contract management or employee onboarding. 

How to approach modernising a Legacy System

The modernisation of a system for a company can be a risk as it impacts resources, data and budget. but legacy processes can impact scalability. If you have an applications that can’t keep pace with the demands of your business, it could become a cost or data risk liability.

However, what should you be aware of if you are ready to modernise your systems and software?

1. Review your modernisation options

You could replace the whole system, rebuild or consider legacy system integrations where your company will integrate with a more modern system to fulfil your needs. You could review both bespoke and off-the-shelf options, and software security will be a key consideration.

2. Choose the most viable option

After analysing all the options, consider which will have the most impact and explore this against the required effort. The option should consider all the functions of the current system and how those processes and functions will be maintained or improved.

3. Recognise how modernisation affects the organisation as a whole and take a structured approach. 

Implementation of a new system is likely to affect multiple employees and processes. Your implementation plan should include communications of goals, onboarding and training. It’s also a good time to review security, compliance and automation. Use a full assessment and implementation framework and define the future goals and objectives.   

Improving Process - With automation and digital

As organisations continue to move away from wide-ranging digital transformation into more long-term marginal improvements, growth will come from the removal of outdated processes in favour of digitally enhanced solutions designed to improve efficiencies while at the same time reducing costs. Businesses can drive incremental growth and build resilience by eliminating bottlenecks and low-value processes through automation and streamlining outdated processes. Having the right tools and digital strategy in place is vital at every step along the value chain. Choosing a modernisation approach that will have the highest effect and value to your organisation with minimum effort and maximum positive impact is smart. Find out more in the DocuSign Digital Maturity Report 2023.


Mangesh Bhandarkar
GVP, Product Management
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