March 11, 2019

Middleware: Finding the middleground

We recently discussed the many benefits of mobilising legacy systems. But in order for your organisation to reap these benefits, you will have to decide between system updates, off-the-shelf solutions or something custom-built.

You might feel like your legacy systems are beyond patchwork and need replacing altogether. But for this to happen, you will need to sell the business case to management with the benefits, costs and an implementation plan.

For many businesses, replacing legacy systems might be a bridge too far. The CFO thinks it’s too expensive, the CIO believes it will be too disruptive and the CEO doesn’t see the need for change in the first place.

Well, there may be another more palatable solution for management that is cost-effective, quicker to implement and still provides the many benefits of modernisation.

What is middleware?

Made popular in the 80’s, Middleware is software that connects network-based requests generated by a client to the back-end data the client is requesting.

In other words, middleware connects different, often complex systems and programmes.

Middleware provides a solution to help bridge the gap between existing and new systems. It can also be used to connect formally incompatible programmes or integrate new systems altogether.

One such solution is to create an interface over the legacy system that provides a modern and simple user-experience (UX).

Modernising with middleware

Often times, legacy systems can’t handle the demands of modern mobile usage and multiple device interactions. And if they can, the UX is clunky and difficult to use.

The benefit of a middleware interface is that it can provide a modern UX while still using back-end legacy systems.

A user-friendly interface (UI) can streamline processes, increase efficiency and improve communication across the organisation. Employees will enjoy using it more and it’s faster and easier to implement than traditional operating systems or something custom-built (in an effort to replace that clunky legacy system).

This is because the interface uses modern code and focuses on UI/UX that drives usage while connecting with backend systems. There’s no need to replace core operating systems, networks or hardware.

Implementing middleware  

Once you have decided on a middleware solution. You need to create a compelling business case to management. Otherwise, it’s all for nought.

But how do you do that?

1) Scope the project

Start with a high-level project scope. This is where you define the need, problem and opportunity. Next address how the solution aligns with the business’s strategic goals or vision. How will it impact staff, customers and daily operations?

With the scope completed, you can set the project’s objectives. Identify the timeline and estimate how much will need to be invested. Then determine if you need to outsource the development or whether you have the capabilities and capacity available internally.

2) Identify costs, benefits & feasibility

Next comes researching and identifying the costs, benefits and feasibility of the project. It’s important to identify more than one potential solution. Discuss the feasibility of each solution and quantify each benefit.

Assess any risks to the business and recommend your preferred solution using a scoring mechanism. It’s also good practice to explain how the organisation can get a return on their investment (and the timeframe to achieve this).

3) Create a compelling business case

Put it together into a compelling business case. The interface itself is a means to an end. Instead, outline the main benefits of the solution and tie your answer back to the business’s goals or mission. Then back up your argument with real figures and hard evidence.

Next, it’s a good idea to discuss the approach to implementation. Identify what resources you need to manage and execute the project. Then summarise all your main points and strongest evidence into an easy-to-digest executive summary.

4) Get technical expertise in the room

It’s important to engage with the people who have the right technical expertise as early as possible. They will be able to help scope requirements, assess feasibility and present the business case from a technical perspective.

If you don’t have this resource available internally, look for an organisation that would be willing to assist throughout the process – from scoping to project sign-off.

Summing it up

Middleware provides a solution that is faster to implement, more cost-effective and helps to modernise legacy systems without having to take on a full rebuild.

Among other advantages, middleware can be used to improve UX, streamline processes and increase efficiency. And this is without replacing existing hardware, operating systems or servers.

But in order to convince key decision-makers, the project must be scoped with clear costs, benefits and feasibility assessments. The business case should also highlight how the solution ties back to strategic goals and identify an implementation approach with a timeline.

Then, with technical expertise on-hand, the project can get signed off and the business can implement the middleware solution.

If you want to know more about middleware solutions, contact us and we’ll be happy to answer any questions.