How to mobilize legacy systems for deeper customer and employee engagement

By Claudio Cozzi

| Banking

Remember when you had to personally go to the bank to deposit your payslip or get cash? Remember when the only way to get house supplies was to go to the store and buy them? Well, that was the 1980s, the pre-millennial and pre-mobile era when there were no mobile devices, no laptops and no smartphones. Legacy systems ran the businesses. Today, you can do all of that and so much more with just a tap or voice command.

The adoption of mobile devices as the front end of people’s social and business transactions is now the standard, not the exception. There are more mobile devices today in the world than there are people, according to GSMA Intelligence. Many people now complete their holiday shopping online without ever setting foot in a store, and seasonal emails are replacing the bundles of holiday cards they receive.

Organizations are forced to provide mechanisms to allow their customers to digitally interact with their processes, including information, purchases, financial transactions, logistics and customer service. The mobile device adoption trend has been exponential over the past 10 years, and this puts pressure on IT departments to, at a minimum, create interfaces to tap important information stored on legacy systems from these devices while continuing to deal with the increasing costs of an aging technology platform.

Executing this task in a cost-effective way is not trivial, and here is where cloud modernization capabilities fit in. Cloud is the natural platform for providing the integration services for legacy systems to support mobile applications. A mobile app provides a customer-centric interaction experience that can encapsulate the interaction choreography. However, the app cannot provide access to data or functionalities currently managed by an enterprise system — that is, it cannot read legacy. Replicating data on a regular basis to a cloud-based database accessible by the app is a way of doing this, but not a very good one because of currency and duplication issues.

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An API strategy is the better answer. Building a data access abstraction layer composed of APIs provides the dual purpose of externalizing selected data and functions while providing the initial step for removal of dependencies from point-to-point data interfaces. In essence, it makes the legacy system and applications accessible from the mobile platform without changing the legacy applications themselves — hence the concept of mobilizing the legacy system.

The good news is that getting started is not as frightening as you might think. Consider the following as you begin the process:

  • Identify areas where access to legacy systems can provide great business value
    What information resides in your legacy system that could be used to enhance or potentially transform your employees, supply chain or customer experience?
  • Decide on a pilot and start there
    With an agile, iterative process, API experiments can be done relatively quickly and without huge costs. Create, run and secure your APIs in scalable and production-ready environments. Investigate cloud options and use it where possible.
  • Have a plan to expand
    Although you may address the mobilization of legacy systems in steps, keep your eye on the ultimate goal of eventually replacing them with modern systems.

Now is a great time to get started on your API strategy. Soon, you’ll be enjoying the extra functions and wondering what you ever did without them.

Written By

Claudio Cozzi

IBM Distinguished Engineer, Cloud Application Modernization Offerings Leader

Claudio Cozzi is an IBM Distinguished Engineer and the Global Application Modernization Offerings Leader for IBM Global Services. In his 25 years at IBM and over 40 years of experience in the Information Management industry he has been focusing on planning, designing, developing and…