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Harvesting what’s good from legacy systems
Legacy technology platforms, starting with the mainframe, often get a bad rap. There is in fact a great deal of value in legacy platforms. It’s not in the bulk of the hardware, of course. It’s in the business logic, in being a great record keeping system, in processing transactions at mass scale. Those types of things aren’t bad.
The problem is, when we created that business logic, that data access, and that user interface, it came to life in monolithic applications. I think that’s where people struggle. But as you break apart these legacy applications into different tiers and you allow the legacy system to become much smaller, modular, and more rapid and efficient at what it does, you can create environments where user interfaces (apps which engage your clients) can be cycled very quickly, and you can experiment very quickly. This allows your businesses to be nimble, to test, learn (sometimes fail) and iterate quickly. That’s the benefit.
I don’t think everyone is planning to rewrite all their legacy systems, but they all want to be in a business where every client engagement system is built to be nimble, quick to release, continuously change, and able to test best practices and best treatments on an ongoing basis. To do that, they need platforms that can evolve very quickly while gathering the associated user analytics. And that doesn’t necessarily mean throw everything in a legacy system out. It’s all about capturing and preserving the best legacy functionality while creating an environment of rapid experimentation and innovation.
John T. Marcante is Vanguard’s chief information officer and managing director of Vanguard’s Information Technology Division. Vanguard is the world’s largest mutual fund company with more than $3.3 trillion in global assets under management. Marcante oversees all aspects of Vanguard’s worldwide technology agenda to serve clients and manage investments. Mr. Marcante, with more than 26 years of experience in the business and technology fields, joined Vanguard in 1993. After serving in a number of leadership roles throughout the company, he returned to the IT division in 2012 and was named Vanguard’s chief information officer and managing director. Marcante holds a Bachelor's degree from Pennsylvania State University and an M.B.A. from Saint Joseph's University.