Decommissioning Legacy Applications: Challenges and Tips for Healthcare Providers
Technology changes all the time, and that often means adopting new software and applications. These new applications often give you unprecedented flexibility or functionality, making them an obvious improvement over the old system. But transitioning to a new system isn't as simple as flipping a switch: all your data is still in that legacy application.
Maintaining the integrity of that data as you transfer it to the new application is critical, especially in the healthcare industry; with pediatric patients, for example, healthcare providers must maintain records until the patient turns 21. You'll need to consider how you back up the data (if you aren't already) and how you'll move it to the new application as seamlessly as possible. This process is often easier said than done. After all, most applications are designed to make it easy to put data in, but not necessarily to "get it out again" on a meaningful scale.
Steps for Decommissioning a Legacy Application
Whether you're adopting new project management software or simply moving information to a new database, you'll want to follow a few simple steps to decommission that legacy application as efficiently and effectively as possible.
- Determine how you can extract all data from the existing application. This step is best done before an application is adopted, but that doesn't always happen. Find out what your options are for extracting the existing data. It's unlikely that you'll be able to move it straight to the new application without some intermediate step, such as exporting data in a .csv file. You'll want to double check that you have indeed gotten all your data before completely decommissioning the application.
- Select a means of storing that data OUTSIDE of the new application. Data storage is heavily regulated in the healthcare industry, and other industries can benefit by adhering to equally high standards. Once you have extracted data from the old application, you'll want to store it somewhere independent of the new application. Storage options include designated hard drives, paper copies, cloud computing options, and more. Generally you'll want to choose at least two of the above; redundant data storage prevents myriad complications that arise when the only copy of data is destroyed or damaged.
- Assess the best way to import the data to the new application. Sometimes the best way to store your data outside the application won't be the best format to import it to the new application. If direct import isn't an option, you'll want to figure out a system for entering existing data.
- Import the data and quality check the import. After you've imported existing data, the next step is to check that the information was imported correctly and completely. You'll need a system for evaluating whether data has been imported in a useable format and to determine whether you did, indeed import everything you needed. It's impractical to check that you've gotten every piece of data, which is another reason it's important to back up existing data; you'll always have a complete record to fill in any holes after the legacy application has been decommissioned.
- Plan renewal dates for support and maintenance agreements. One means of reducing the burden of decommissioning legacy applications is to regularly back up your system. That way you won't have to transition years of data in one fell swoop when it's time to transition to a new application or system. Make a schedule not only for exporting new data to the predetermined locations, but also for updating the system and doing any other necessary application-related IT maintenance.
Robert Williams is founder of goPMO, which offers the healthcare industry a practical implementation approach for project management. After many years as an IT leader in the industry, Robert saw a clear need for greater efficiency in project consideration and execution. Thus goPMO provides both an easy-to-use self-serve project implementation tool and full-service project management consultation. A certified PMP from the Project Management Institute, Williams empowers healthcare organizations and PMO's to be catalysts for high impact and powerful project delivery.