May 2, 2012
One of today’s favorite characterizations of older IT systems is “legacy”. In common usage, it has become to acquire a derogatory context. It’s worth trying to define the real characteristics of a legacy solution as distinct from a mature market proven product.
To my mind “legacy” means “time expired or sunset”. In other words, the solution in question has come to the end of its useful life and is incapable of improvements in its function, technology and economic use. Typically solutions like this make use of older technology (think flat files versus RDBMS) and outmoded architecture. Often too legacy products are in fact a mish mash of some original core software, which over the years has been surrounded by loosely integrated third party applications as a way of adding new functionality and services.
The end result of course is a highly inflexible and costly to run environment and a client left in an extremely uncompetitive situation.
As is always the case across history, newer solutions benefit from lessons of the past as well as emerging and new technologies and thinking. The more visionary product designers create solutions that can evolve over time, without the need to “throw them away and start again”. I think the big trick here is picking the right architecture that provides a framework that can integrate technological and functional improvements as these come along.
Once the designer has built the optimal architecture, product evolution becomes a relatively straightforward process allowing users to benefit in short order from the latest business and technology thinking. This type of product enhancement means that clients can be comfortable in deploying a market tested solution, while being sure in the knowledge that they are not heading down a strategic cul de sac.
We can thank the original designers of SmartVista for having the vision to create a solution architecture that has readily accepted new functions and new technology over the last ten years or so. For example, when SmartVista was originally launched, mobile phones were used to make phone calls, now they play a multitude of roles, including acting as the always-on financial services hub in your pocket. So as this new channel has evolved from testing and trials to the mainstream SmartVista has easily moved with the times and now offers comprehensive m-commerce functionality including NFC.
Product design is of course more than features and functions and certainly in the payments arena, high availability and scalability are essential to clients. Here too SmartVista’s designers delivered a solution able to scale horizontally and vertically to meet the needs of any financial institution – we’ve seen peaks of 1,400 TPS from production clients and SmartVista handled the load without skipping a beat.
So as you judge your currently installed solution and make your future buying decisions take a good look at how products have proven themselves capable of seamless evolution. Making the right choice will give you the benefit of a tried and tested product secure in the knowledge that you won’t be left behind as new ways to pay and new cost effective technologies become available.
Richard Phillimore is executive vice president at BPC Banking Technologies. Richard has more than 45 years of experience in the global financial services industry, including senior positions with NatWest Bank, MasterCard Worldwide and Fidelity National Information Services.