What’s your tech approach? Blend innovation AND legacy to drive value

21 June 2024 • 6 min read


Technological change is perpetual - that’s a given. For business leaders that means that despite their best efforts, there’s always going to be a degree of legacy technology in their stack, that’s fine if you have a plan to use and adapt your existing technology effectively, but too much legacy tech can quickly become a blocker if you let an accompanying legacy mindset creep in.

This is backed up by our research, where more than half (55%) of CEOs expressed that the pace at which new technologies are emerging is causing more alarm than excitement within their senior leadership teams. This clearly demonstrates that many senior leaders are struggling to keep up with emerging technologies, let alone fully realise the value they could bring to their organisations.

On the flip side, an even greater number (58%) of CEOs believe that their commitment to legacy systems does not hinder innovation and agility within their organisation. This highlights the risks associated with complacency and a more closed-off approach to embracing new technologies. Those that adhere too rigidly to the technological status quo are at risk of being outpaced by their competitors, who can deliver more compelling customer experiences.

So, what’s the best approach? Relying on proven legacy technologies that appear to deliver the business value you need today, but that could quickly become expensive and time-consuming to maintain? Or, risk it all on a big-bang of innovation that will put you ahead of your competitors and potentially delight your customers, but that comes with the risk of being challenging to integrate, and may require extensive upskilling and investment to realise the full value from? Read on to learn more about shifting to an AND not or mindset, and finding a way forward that blends innovation AND legacy to accelerate value.


The shift to an AND not OR mindset


How to inject some innovation into your approach, if you’re dominated by legacy tech


As we already mentioned, varying degrees of legacy tech in your stack is an inevitable part of being an evolving business, but it’s important to strike a balance between innovation and legacy to ensure that the return on investment from your technology isn’t being outweighed by the risk of spiralling maintenance costs and challenges of finding people with the right skills to develop your stack. That’s why we’ve put together some key considerations to make sure you’re bringing a bit more innovation to your approach:


  1. Reflect on the main challenges and opportunities facing your current technology, what are the high impact areas where change is needed?

  2. Consider how you can expend the least amount of effort and resources to do the greatest amount of good.

  3. Ask whether your technology systems and processes are efficient and effective, and if not, what steps are you taking to improve them?

  4. Ensure that your initiatives and projects are solving the right problems, and consider how you are tracking against our goals for these efforts.

  5. Analyse the current state of your technology infrastructure and how it aligns with our overall long-term business strategy. This needs to be focused not on where the company “is going” but where it “can go”? Ask how much time you, as a board, are spending on digital? How often are you getting an update on how the competitive landscape is changing, and what emerging trends are shaping your industry?

  6. Question whether you are leveraging technology and innovation to drive business growth and gain a competitive advantage.

  7. Give some serious thought to how you can build an innovation culture internally, with a view to making it a core differentiator. After all, technology only facilitates culture, it doesn't define it.

  8. If you’re currently working with technology and/or delivery partners there’s also pertinent questions you should be asking of them, some great examples include:
  • Are they delivering solutions or selling a product?
  • Can they outline the training and support they’ll provide to your internal teams during and after the adoption of new technologies?
  • How do they plan to assess your existing legacy technologies and infrastructure?
  • How do they stay up-to-date with the latest technology trends and ensure that your organisation remains competitive?
  • How can they help you build an innovation culture within your own organisation?


How to benefit from the best of legacy technology, if you’re currently full tilt towards innovation


If technology innovation is your full focus, you’re probably thinking “what can I learn from a legacy approach”? A fair question, but there are proven benefits to a more incremental approach, with a “test & iterate” mentality that can reap real rewards in terms of sustainable value creation. Regardless of your zeal for the latest and greatest technologies, it’s worthwhile considering the integration, migration and modernisation challenges that can potentially arise as a result. With that in mind, here are some critical factors for consideration:


  1. Pause for thought and take stock of whether your company focuses on digital “optimisation” versus digital “transformation”. The former adds significant value without changing business models (e.g. automation and AI) whereas digital transformation leads to new revenue and business models.

  2. Make sure that you leverage the deep knowledge your engineers already have on your legacy applications to drive out your innovation plans.

  3. Consider whether you can better manage risk by prioritising incremental upgrades over complete overhauls to allow for easier rollbacks and failsafes if things don’t go to plan.

  4. Think about the potential impacts that migrating different workloads would have on your business. Continual innovation is synonymous with a degree of upheaval, and this comes with short-term risks like unplanned downtime.

  5. Take a holistic view on the risks presented by innovation. It’s well worth considering the total pool of risks you might face, how that aligns with your organisational risk appetite, and whether you’ve defined who is responsible for monitoring these risks as well as balancing an offence vs. defence approach.

  6. As ever, if you’re also working with technology and/or delivery partners, here’s what you should be asking them:
  • What is your approach to ensuring data security and compliance whilst developing an application, or undertaking a migration or replatforming?
  • How do you handle potential disruptions or downtime?
  • What’s your methodology or approach for maintaining operational efficiency during a migration or replatforming?


Ready to accelerate value now? Embrace the juxtaposition of innovation AND legacy


CEOs - and by extension people across your organisation - need a profound shift in mindset, to look for the AND rather than the OR when it comes to embracing new technology. To unlock true value quickly from your technology investments you have to embrace the inherently juxtaposed concepts of innovation AND legacy. This can sound daunting but here are some proven approaches to set you up for success:


4 acceleration approaches to balance innovation AND legacy in technology:


  1. Identify the right problem, to ensure the right investment - make sure you have a clear use case for any new technologies that solves a genuine, validated business problem. We’ve worked with plenty of clients where it turns out the problem they spent good money trying to solve, wasn’t the right one in the first place.

  2. Take a technology neutral approach - it can be really easy to fall into the hype cycle of a given technology, particularly if you’re speaking to sales people who have a commercial incentive to influence your decision. Maintaining a technology neutral approach helps you to weigh up your options objectively.

  3. Think short-term AND long-term - a hybrid solution that balances your business’ short-term requirements - with solutions aligned to your existing technology - alongside well-reasoned tech choices made with your long-term strategic goals in mind, is the route to sustained and accelerated value creation.

  4. Start small to move fast - Once you’ve identified the right use cases, the quickest path to value lies in rapid prototyping and building working proof-of-concepts (PoCs). This will not only help you demonstrate business value quickly, it will also allow you to refine and optimise your proposed solutions ahead of a wider launch.



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