In the changing landscape of higher education, CTOs and tech leaders can find themselves in a dilemma. Teams can be split between the appealing prospects of new technologies and the familiarity and generational reliance on their legacy systems that can sometimes be seen as “keeping the lights on”.
Legacy systems are outdated or soon-to-be obsolete technologies that typically have been surpassed by newer, more advanced alternatives. Due to lacking modern features, having limited compatibility, or relying on outdated infrastructure, they are often associated with higher maintenance costs, security vulnerabilities, and difficulties in integrating with newer technologies.
When a system fails to meet the criteria of being cost-effective, secure, adaptable, dependable, or performance-efficient, it raises the question of whether it should be replaced. But what are the most common risks associated with legacy IT systems?
One of the biggest concerns related to legacy systems is the increased exposure to security breaches and unauthorised access to data. As cyber threats continue to become more sophisticated, outdated security protocols and a lack of regular updates leave universities vulnerable to severe external attacks. Breaches can result in the loss of highly sensitive student and faculty data, erode trust in the institution, and even lead to regulatory penalties which all has an impact on the institution’s reputation.
Legacy systems may struggle to handle increased demand that is caused by expanding data, and the peaks of new terms and exam results. Legacy IT infrastructure limits an institution’s ability to scale operations, accommodate enrolment growth, and adapt to evolving educational needs. Data-intensive operations such as generating reports, analysing student performance, or managing research data may become increasingly time-consuming and resource-intensive, hampering productivity and decision-making processes.
Outdated interfaces and clunky user experiences can negatively impact staff and student engagement. It can lead to frustration among students, faculty, and staff who rely on these systems for critical functions such as registration, course management, and student information management. As student needs evolve, institutions are looking to build more adaptive and engaging student experiences, but legacy technology ecosystems can become barriers to this goal.
Legacy systems can be slow, cumbersome, and prone to frequent breakdowns. This can disrupt daily operations leading to uncontrollable downtimes, hindering productivity, and frustrating its key users.
Legacy systems often lack advanced analytics capabilities, making it challenging for institutions to derive meaningful insights from their data. This can hinder evidence-based decision-making, personalised learning initiatives, and institutional improvements.
Legacy technology’s maintenance costs can significantly impact staff morale and retention. Outdated systems often incur higher expenses, straining budgets and reducing employee benefits and development resources. The limitations of legacy systems lead to manual workarounds, resulting in decreased productivity and employee frustration. Moreover, skills may become outdated, hindering career growth and prompting job seekers to look elsewhere for opportunities. The fear of adopting new technology can impede innovation and competitiveness. Attracting and retaining top talent becomes challenging when modern tools are lacking. Coping with legacy technology stress and inadequate support can also lead to employee burnout.
Regarding technology upgrades, higher education institutions in the UK may initially perceive maintaining legacy systems as a more cost-effective approach than adopting modern solutions. However, recognising and mitigating the hidden risks of legacy systems is essential to ensure long-term success, data security, and operational excellence.
Investing in technology modernisation is crucial. Upgrading to more current systems improves efficiency, productivity, and staff morale. Implementing training programs facilitates adaptation to new technologies, supporting professional growth and talent retention. Embracing modern tools enhances the organisation’s competitiveness in the market. By acknowledging the impact of legacy technology and taking steps to modernise, organisations can remain resilient, secure and foster a positive work environment while retaining their top talent.
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