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Deconstructing the Legacy Data Challenge

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How can technology and data leaders approach the legacy data challenge, even as the pandemic compounds our ability to innovate?

This roundtable debate centers around the concept of the legacy data challenge and how the issue affects certain organizations today. Legacy data, otherwise referred to as historical data, is widely known as information which is stored in an old, outdated format or computer system that is difficult to access and process.

In today’s modern technological world, the concept of legacy data and systems is often perceived as old or deprecated, using obsolete software and programming languages instead of the latest upgraded versions we so commonly use nowadays.

The panelists of the roundtable debate discussed the importance of legacy data and how it affects their businesses and organizations. 

With Juliette Foster moderating, the speakers of this roundtable include: 

  • Jacqui Lipinski, CIO & Director of Digital and Technical Services, Royal College of Art
  • Matt Maccaux, Global Field CTO, Hewlett Packard Enterprise
  • Milos Topic, VP & CDO, Grand Valley State University
  • Nuala Kennedy-Preston, CDO, People’s Postcode Lottery
  • Praveen Moturu, VP Digital and Global Chief Enterprise Architect, Mars Inc

The legacy data challenge

CIO and Director of Digital and Technical Services at the Royal College of Art, Jacqui Lipinski, argued that data legacy has become a “massive” issue in the higher education sector. Jacqui said: “Trying to unpick the data is such an enormous task”.

Global Field CTO for the Ezmeral Enterprise Software BU at HPE, Matt Maccaux, agreed with Jacqui’s views on the difficulty of extracting data from legacy data systems.

“You’ve got these legacy platforms that are expensive and difficult to modernize”, says Matt, further emphasizing the time and effort it takes to perform what would normally be a straightforward task.

Vice President for Information Technology & Chief Digital Officer at Grand Valley State University, Milos Topic, stated that companies need to know “when to let go” when it comes to outdated systems that prove to be difficult in this day and age.

How do you calculate the value of data?

Chief data officer at People’s Postcode Lottery, Nuala Kennedy Preston, stated that the real legacy data challenge is figuring out how legacy data can add value to the business as a whole, and that “the importance of clear data cannot be emphasized enough”.

In addition to this, Jacqui highlighted that understanding the ownership of your data is another very real and common challenge among businesses. “Who’s responsible for making sure we have a single source of truth? What’s the outcome you’re trying to achieve for the organization?”, she says.

Praveen Moturu, Vice President of Digital Technologies and Chief Enterprise Architect at Mars Inc, believes that legacy data systems were monolithic and connected to large data models. He also stated that: “The value of data is directly proportionate to the outcome”.

The panelists agreed that one of the biggest issues is establishing the context of the extracted data to derive its overall value.

How can you safely get rid of unwanted data? Jacqui believes that in order to begin the process of safely removing data that is no longer relevant, the business needs to look at their data retention policy and the laws regarding this issue. “Make sure you do deal with your data cleanup exercises. Make sure you understand who is accountable and responsible for that part of the organization’s data”, she says.

Data as a product

“Approach the use of data as a product”, says Matt.

Jacqui argued that for every organization, especially the higher education sector, “data is your  biggest asset”. She stated that in regards to their customers, organizations want to make sure that their experience is prioritized; data allows you to tailor everything to your customer, thereby overcoming the legacy data challenge.

“Data is sitting at the heart of new projects and new developments”, says Jacqui. On the other hand, she remarked that data is also seen as a necessary evil that needs to be sorted. In spite of its highlighted importance for the customer’s benefit, Milos argued that: “People should have the rights and autonomy as to what kind of data about them is being collected”.

This roundtable on the legacy data challenge was created in partnership with HPE.

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