CIO Zeev Avidan: ‘Legacy Cannot Be Excused’

The pandemic may have forced companies to go fully remote before they were ready—but now that customers expect it, there's no going back.

The pandemic shutdowns not only forced IT departments to adapt to remote work processes—it also accelerated customers’ desires for real-time digital interactions.

Zeev Avidan, chief product officer at OpenLegacy based in Princeton, New Jersey, shares how CIOs can best prepare for all of the changes now expected in the “new normal.”

With over two years since Covid lockdowns first happened and companies attempting to work remotely with trial and error, were there any changes that OpenLegacy made during this time that didn’t end up working out? What were some of the biggest challenges you saw your customers face during this time?

There were many things that we changed during the beginning of Covid—we used to set PoVs and implementation processes onsite and had to adjust to doing it remotely for the very first time. At first, we tried keeping things “business as usual” just in a remote fashion but realized that it’s not efficient, and we should be using technology, since we are a technology company! We applied the same cloud-first principles to the way we’re doing implementations, using marketplaces, SaaS, and automation all while working remotely. We grew our practices and adapted as many other players.

Our customers also saw many challenges during this time and we were right there alongside them, learning and adapting. One of the biggest challenges we saw customers face was their customers wanting to do everything remote, especially via mobile. This change was occurring before Covid but accelerated when everyone went fully remote. Now everything is expected to be available online, even things the company hadn’t planned to make available that way for a while.

With shifting from an emergency state to a “new normal” of hybrid interactions, what can CIOs working for industries whose customers demand real-time digital services, like financial institutions for example, do to continue keeping up and make sure they aren’t left behind?

In the pandemic, what was important became urgent, and now with the “new normal” the urgency is not going anywhere but has become a constant state. With that, customer expectations changed irrevocably.

What that means for companies, especially financial institutions, is: speed speed speed—automation and agility. Companies use automation to become agile since their customers expect services to be available remotely. Legacy cannot be excused. There is a huge need to modernize today whether or not the logic and data is stored in legacy systems.

Furthermore, alignment with business and IT is no longer just a talking point. Requests from the business side can’t be queued to be fulfilled later just because IT is busy.

What are your key takeaways for companies still relying on legacy mainframe computers running applications, even after surviving two years of Covid and remote work?

The main challenge with legacy mainframe systems is that they were not designed to work with today’s modern technology—and with technology changing so rapidly, especially in the last two years, mainframe legacy systems are struggling to keep up. The principal should be the right workload, on the right platform. But to achieve that, integration and modernization become keys, and no matter what a company’s modernization plan is, they still need to address and support their business needs today.

What advice would you give to companies that are struggling to have a cloud-first mindset as digital transformations in the workplace continue to evolve at a rapid pace?

One of the biggest pieces of advice I give is that companies can’t get out of legacy challenges using the approaches and technology that got them there. Looking at the main digital transformation strategies—modernize, re-platform and replace—all have components of hybrid and transition states, and hence, require a sophisticated, robust and top technology to handle that.

Companies also never know what features will be requested as they start to transform, so flexibility is key. The last thing that enterprises should do is lock themselves into a corner as many have in the past.

The other piece of advice is to make sure everyone is on the same page and can build their systems in a true business needs first mindset and not get stuck being driven by what IT needs. 

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