People and processesChange ManagementLegacy databases holding back digital transformation

Legacy databases holding back digital transformation

Survey highlights some major barriers to transformation, including legacy data and technology and rushing into digital projects

New research has revealed that legacy databases are among the top factors holding back digital transformation.

A survey of 450 heads of digital transformation across the US, UK, France and Germany discovered that a staggering 74 percent of organisations rely so heavily on their legacy databases that they cannot adopt newer database technology as quickly as they would like.

Worryingly for the public sector, which is having to roll out digital transformation against the backdrop of continuing budget cuts, 52 percent of respondents said a fixation on digital transformation had raised the risk of rushing into ill-thought-out projects, meaning that much of their planned spend in the next 12 months could be wasted.

This risk of rushing in is being driven by mounting pressure to transform: 85 percent of respondents said disruption in their industry has accelerated over the past 12 months.

Other findings include:

  • 95 percent of respondents believe that digital transformation can seem an insurmountable task – meaning projects are more likely to be unsuccessful
  • 35 percent say the primary driver for digital transformation is advances made by competitors, 23 percent changes in regulation, and 19 percent pressure from customers – meaning digital transformation is mostly being driven by reactive needs, instead of proactive ideas
  • Businesses have limited time to get this right: 64 percent believe those that can’t keep up with digital innovations will go out of business or be absorbed by a competitor in fewer than four years
  • There are personal consequences of failed digital projects: 83 percent of respondents said they would face being fired if a project fails.

“We are entering the era of the massively interactive enterprise where every part of an organisation, from sales and marketing, to HR, finance and logistics, is built around engaging digital experiences,” said Matt Cain, CEO of Couchbase.

“The revolutionary potential of digital transformation will have a hugely positive impact for those organisations that can do it well. However, the pressure to transform at speed means organisations have a higher risk of taking a rushed, reactive approach that results in substandard experiences and wasted investments.

“Transformation is not a destination. It’s a continuous process that, at its best, is proactive, driven by the needs of the business as a whole, and underpinned by the right data infrastructure. By adopting this approach, and not letting the pressure faze them, organisations can join the ranks of the leading 25 percent.”

Chief drivers

Digital transformation has been mostly driven by the IT function: 76 percent of organisations rank it in the top three business functions driving their digital transformation in the last five years. Business executives also have a substantial say, with 47 percent placing them in the top three. However, other functions are far less represented, suggesting that transformation is still seen as the domain of IT instead of something that should concern the entire organisation.

Digital transformation is also still being held back by technology. Eighty-eight percent of organisations have had a digital project fail, reduce in scope, or suffer significant delays because their legacy database couldn’t support it. Indeed, this reliance on legacy databases and competing priorities has raised a number of issues, including:

  • 87 percent of organisations find they have to scale back ambitions for new applications and services so that they will work with IoT or mobile devices – since these devices cannot match the data processing power of larger servers, and cannot guarantee a consistent connection
  • Only 29 percent of organisations say they can use data in real-time, limiting the end-user experience and the types of services they can offer
  • 83 percent of respondents are under increased pressure to secure their organisations’ database – laying bare the threats they face and taking attention away from transforming new services

“Data is at the heart of the massively interactive enterprise,” continued Cain. “Customer and employee-facing, and even machine-to-machine, applications need to access the right data, in real-time, even when there is limited access to a central server.

“This doesn’t necessarily mean organisations should simply throw out their legacy technology and start over. However, they do need to ensure that they have the right data architecture for their needs. One that can handle sudden changes in direction, that can perform at scale, and that is secure. With the right technology at hand, organisations will be ready to weather the growing pressure and take part in a real digital revolution.”

The full 2018 Couchbase CIO survey report is available to download here.

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