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In the information era, there is no exaggeration in saying that legacy systems make the business go round. What justifies this rather strong claim? The fact that most of companies’ vital data is held in legacy systems. Basically, these ancient structures lay the foundation for business processes, therefore they are a necessary precondition for any economic activity.

The problem nowadays is their lack of flexibility; it is as if legacy systems were doomed to always be one step behind the ever-changing customer needs and preferences. Moreover, the systems get more and more complex and difficult to manage.

The main downside from the point of view of human resources is that legacy systems are agility blockers. Consequently, in the very dynamic world of business today, replacing them is crucial. But alas, this is not at all a piece of cake! Between-system data migration is extremely sensitive to errors.

Moreover, the replacement needs to be done fast, since both the company’s employees and its customers need to be able to access systems at all times. But is (total) replacement the one and only solution for system integration? Not quite. To substantiate this claim, let’s consider as an alternative the possibility to upgrade legacy systems with robotic process automation.

Data management methodology well adapted to the peculiarities of your company is the way to go for efficiently automating the legacy system processes. RPA for legacy systems helps to scale down the routine, repetitive tasks; it can be viewed as a way to connect businesses’ core software solutions.

There are several ways to integrate apps, such as APIs, CRM, or ERP, each with its own better and worse parts. RPA is more flexible, faster, and cheaper to deploy than APIs; additionally, the large inventory of mainframe legacy applications that cannot be integrated through API also constitutes a prima facie recommendation for the use of RPA for legacy systems.

Benefits of upgrading legacy systems with RPA

Let’s start by summing up the main reasons that recommend upgrading legacy systems with RPA.

  • Short implementation time

RPA doesn’t require coding, integration, or complex APIs. Software robots mimic humans’ interaction with apps. The ease of deployment allows businesses to promptly react to new opportunities, and it is thus conducive to quick productivity wins.

  • Affordability

As opposed to other systems such as API, the labour costs involved by RPA implementation are rather low, because it doesn’t require much skill or human resources. Its scalability makes it highly adaptable to various operation needs without supplementary infrastructures. Consequently, feasibility and financial feasibility hold even for smaller budgets.

  • Increased security

Robotic process automation doesn’t face the data and access security risks posed by alternatives to the total replacement of legacy systems, such as outsourcing or offshoring. Automation allows companies to strictly control access authorization to sensitive information.

How can you upgrade legacy systems with RPA?

1. Create more agility by identifying tasks amenable to automation in the legacy platforms

Across the industry space, a significant number of the tasks from operations departments can be automated. Those tasks with clear processing instructions (template driven), governed by standardised and predictive rules, that require structured and repetitive activities (thus, highly susceptible to human error), with a low rate of variable outcomes and high frequency “call for automation”.

Software robots can execute them faster and with significantly less mistakes than human employees can. Read more about factors for choosing the right business processes to automate on our blog.

2. Combine workflows across common legacy platforms (email system, CRM, finance system)

The main benefit of this approach is the removal of significant agility blockers. Consider the need to mark a particular customer as renewed in both CRM and the finance system.

Software robots’ speed and accuracy can take the tedious and painstaking tasks of cross-platform data entry and processing off your employees’ shoulders. This means that the bright minds in your sales or marketing departments can dedicate their time to more creative activities that also generate more income.

3. Minimise disruption by overlaying new platforms on top of legacy systems

Leveraging intelligent automation, meaning the combined use of artificial intelligence tools such as machine learning (ML) and traditional RPA tools, allows the modernisation of legacy systems in a staged manner. Starting automation in a particular area of your business can be viewed as a first step to get buy-in by showing improvements, such as increased efficiency and accuracy, or reduced operational costs.

On top of that, when legacy systems are fed ML information, they can detect fraud more easily, and also increase revenue by making and improving customer service (by example, making better product recommendations).

4. Optimise customers’ and employees’ access to data, and prevent data loss

In the case of total replacement of legacy systems, data migration is marred by the likelihood of error. Robotic process automation provides an in-house solution, which offers the company not only full control over the data flow and access to the data as and when required, but also 100% accuracy of transferring the data between systems.

With the help of software robots, the migration process for legacy applications becomes automated and repeatable. Every bit of data goes exactly where it is needed, thereby streamlining system integration. What is more, discrete data pertaining to the legacy system can be automatically linked to data from other systems (see also point 2 above), facilitating access to data. Data migration happens at a fraction of the time required by total replacement, and in a lot more secure way.


Knowing a bit more about how RPA upgrades legacy systems substantiates from a different perspective the extended discussion about the benefits of implementing RPA in your company. Some other contributions are: the reduction of operational risks, the impulse to simplify business processes and to render them more efficient, the minimisation of customer complaints, the high flexibility of scaling operations both up and down, and employees’ use of their time to perform higher-value tasks than routine ones that don’t require much judgment or creativity.

We end by kindly inviting our APAC readers to download our latest whitepaper, based on what over 2000 leaders (from Optus, Judo Bank, LeasePlan, and more) have told us about their RPA implementation strategies, and their future automation plans.

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