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Balancing act: The art of modernising secure legacy systems

Transitioning from tired legacy systems to cutting-edge solutions is a journey fraught with challenges, especially in environments where security comes first.

My experience as a principal architect has shown me that this type of transformation, while necessary, must be handled with utmost caution. Each step has to be carefully measured to avoid disrupting core business operations or introducing new security vulnerabilities.

The blast radius of legacy transformation

The journey from old to new is never easy. Legacy systems, often deeply embedded in an organisation’s processes – and even culture – hold a delicate balance of functionality and security. One of the key challenges is maintaining operational continuity while implementing new technologies.

“Change in secure systems requires a balanced approach – blending drive and innovation with fully mapped caution.”

For example, in the upgrade of a critical national security database, a meticulously planned transition would be needed to ensure zero downtime and prevent disruption to a number of government agencies.

Cases like this underscore the importance of a strategic approach when handling legacy transformation. Too often, legacy transition focuses on what will be when things have gone right, missing the crucial: what if it goes wrong? The blast radius of a potential failure is the first thing to map.

Another critical – and often overlooked – aspect in digital transformation is the potential introduction of new security risks.

READ: User-centred design: The key to security positive culture

Potential Security Loopholes

Modern systems, while powerful, can open up new vulnerabilities if not carefully architected. The integration of legacy with new systems and platforms can create unexpected security loopholes. It’s essential to conduct thorough risk assessments and implement robust governance frameworks to mitigate these risks, with continuous monitoring and adaptation crucial to maintaining a secure environment both during and after the transition.

Transforming legacy systems in secure environments is a complex but essential process. Hardware can only sweat for so long before it fails, yet change in secure systems requires a balanced approach – blending drive and innovation with fully mapped caution. Ensuring business continuity and addressing potential security risks are pivotal to success.

As organisations embark on legacy transformation journeys, it’s essential to adopt and execute a well-planned, fully governed approach. Only then can modernisation enhance rather than compromise security. At Zaizi, we have the expertise on tap to help your transformation achieve successful outcomes. It’s what we do.

Case Studies:

1. From a stalled legacy system project to award-winning success

The Home Office faced challenges with an outdated spreadsheet system for processing sensitive applications, leading to inefficiencies and security risks. Zaizi, playing a pivotal role, conducted a Transformation Day workshop, analysing current digital setups and engaging with team members through interactive sessions. The workshop identified barriers, set goals, and prioritised solutions, leading to a roadmap for replacing the legacy system.

Zaizi’s approach included a multidisciplinary team, stakeholder engagement, and iterative design, resulting in a new digitised and automated system. This system is more efficient, secure, and paperless, improving data integrity and decision-making. The transformation was recognised with an award for innovation.

2. A modernised records management platform for a new government department

Zaizi designed and built a cloud-based IT infrastructure for the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS), formed by merging two government entities. The modernised platform enhanced data access, updating, review, and sharing for 3,600 government staff. The project involved creating a new electronic documents and records management (EDRM) platform and migrating over 4.6TB of data from various departments into this system.

The new platform provided better information management, clearer ownership, and improved functionality. It enabled remote access for staff and facilitated BEIS’s compliance with freedom of information requests. The initiative addressed the challenge of consolidating data from diverse sources and transformed an outdated system into a streamlined, efficient digital environment.

If you have any questions or would like to find out more about our work, please get in touch.

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