Today’s CTOs are more than simply IT engineers with fancy names; they’re value-generators for the business organization. It’s time for technology leaders to assume the burden and develop legacy system modernization plans to revitalize their businesses today.
Modernizing legacy systems isn’t just about getting your IT stack up to date; it’s also about developing the agility to adapt, respond, and react quickly to what’s going on in the market, technology, and even in cultures. It’s all about turning your IT department from a money-loser to a profit maker.
Of course, legacy system modernization approaches are a long-term process. But the faster you cut ties with laggard systems and utilize more cost-effective technology and cloud services, the sooner you’ll be able to generate extra money for your company.
However, this blog post will explore what it means, what you’ll need, where to start, the alternatives you have for moving off your old mainframe and upgrading, and how it may help you make the right decision for your business.
A legacy system is an obsolete operating system or software platform based on an older programming language.
What is a legacy system?
A legacy system is an obsolete operating system or software platform based on an older programming language. E-commerce stores sometimes run on legacy systems because technology and software are constantly updated. These operating systems are no longer widely used as new or updated versions have been released. The system still meets the initial needs but does not allow for growth.
One of the main reasons legacy systems are still used in businesses is this. Within a company, legacy systems are frequently required. Technically, some specific computer system, programming language, software application, process, or technology may fall into this category.
However, some common characteristics describe a legacy system: legacy systems are no longer supported and maintained, although they cannot be replaced as they are essential to many organizations. Such systems cannot be bought for a good reason. They are based on outdated technology and are incompatible with today’s most advanced solutions.
However, any technology that can no longer be automatically supported and updated is essentially a legacy system. It doesn’t have to be that old; even a year-old IT system can be considered as such if it fits the description.
How to prepare for modernizing legacy systems?
Define the problems
When the legacy system no longer meets today’s organizational or IT needs, it’s time to refine the issues further. What exactly is causing friction for users (customers or employees)? Target specific user stories.
However, it’s also essential to understand what works well in legacy software with this approach. Understanding what works and what doesn’t can help inform the modernization concept.
Evaluate application modernization options
Once the opportunity to modernize a legacy application is established and the problem is clearly defined, the next is to decide how to update the application.
Choose the app modernization approach.
You may go beyond effort and impact to evaluate the options in terms of:
- Costs (modernization and continuous operation)
The weight of each depends on the priority of each organization. Still, competition and changing consumer demands are also considerations in the ultimate value of any legacy modernization method.
Prepare for future growth and change.
Business organizations do not operate in a vacuum: they are exposed to ever-changing consumers, the competitive marketplace, the economic landscape, and the opportunities presented by evolving new technologies. The average application has a shelf life of 6-8 years.
Legacy software today is often monolithic in design, limiting businesses to applications that are difficult to update. Today’s modern digital landscape requires greater agility to implement new features or capabilities and scale as needed.
Choosing the right modernization approach is about selecting the most excellent possible flexibility to adapt to change. A wrapped app can connect to other microservices but is still subject to the same limitations as its existing codebase. However, software that has been refactored or redesigned has a much better chance of meeting an organization’s future needs.
Do your research to choose the right modernization partner
Most companies aren’t constantly building or modernizing applications; it’s not their primary focus. Internal teams may lack the skills for the “new” environment, requiring training even to use a new system. As a result, it is doubtful that there are enough internal resources to make all the appropriate decisions about the legacy system modernization approach, cloud, or microservices support.
Instead, many companies rely on a trusted software partner to help with legacy application modernization. To maximize time to market for your legacy modernization project, look for a team that leverages agile and DevOps practices. Look for a digital transformation agency with experience transforming technology, systems, and processes across various legacy system modernization approaches.
Monitor and optimize
Once a project is running, it is essential to test and optimize changes and additions to the application and ensure no issues are moving from software licenses, hosting, or connectivity to other services or databases. Plan for ongoing modernization efforts to ensure the application keeps pace with changing needs.
The need to modernize the legacy system
Modernizing legacy systems is more than just upgrading the system. It’s about bringing the entire organization closer to the digital environment.
A legacy system modernization can be remarkably long-lived. They can sustain critical business processes without major adjustments for 10 to 30 years. This makes them practically indispensable for many companies. An example is Windows XP, which was used many years after Microsoft stopped supporting it. In fact, despite possible concerns, some companies are still using XP today.
Give your customers what they are used to. This can be a significant concern for many service businesses. It’s a tremendous benefit to provide clients with a consistent experience without substantial adjustments. Customer experience is one of the essential factors that make customers choose a brand. 81% of customers happy with a company that provides good service are more likely to return after their positive experience.
Another thing a company wants to do is alienate customers by completely changing the experience. A change can lead to churn and other inconveniences. This is also important for long-term customers who have always interacted with the brand in the same way.
- Help create and maintain a competitive advantage by building a solution that helps you stay ahead of the competition.
- It offers reliable processes with reduced risks, improves system operations, and improves performance.
- Ensure happier customers and happier employees by meeting performance and UX standards.
- It helps you scale into the future by transforming your IT stack into a modern platform for future changes.
- Protects your IT infrastructure from internal security breaches and external threats
- From accounting software to CRMs, legacy systems simplify the integration of various new business software used by different companies.
- Addresses the financial inefficiencies of the legacy system
- Help realize growth opportunities, exceed customer expectations, and win new customers by staying ahead of the enterprise software curve.
Approaches to modernizing legacy systems
Once the opportunity is selected, and the problem identified, look for legacy system modernization options. However, Gartner ranked seven votes based on ease of implementation (the simpler, the less risk and impact it poses to your system and business processes; the more complex, the more risk and impact).
- Encapsulate – Leverage and extend the application’s capabilities by encapsulating its data and functionality and exposing them as services through an API.
- Rehosting – Redeploy the application component to a different infrastructure (physical, virtual, or in the cloud) without changing its code, features, or functionality.
- Replatform – Migrate to a new runtime platform and make minimal changes to the code, but not to the code’s structure, characteristics, or functionality.
- Refactor – Restructure and optimize existing code (but not its external behavior) to eliminate technical debt and improve non-functional attributes.
- Redesign: Significantly change the code to adapt to new application architecture and take advantage of new and better features.
- Rebuild: Design or rewrite the application component from scratch while maintaining its scope and specifications.
- Replace – Completely remove the old application component and replace it, considering the new requirements and needs.
Choose the modernization approach with the most significant impact and value.
Finally, choose the modernization approach that will have the most significant impact and value for your business organization by mapping the seven modernization options regarding their effects on technology, architecture, functionality, cost, and risk.
Ultimately, modernizing legacy applications means choosing between redesign, rebuild, or replacement. The redesign has medium costs and risks, while remodeling or replacement gives better results with higher costs and risks. The best is to weigh the options to determine how far each achieves the desired effect with the least effort and the most significant positive impact.
What are some of the most challenging aspects of moving from a legacy system to new and better capabilities?
Replacing and migrating legacy systems is high on the list of critical issues in organizations. Replacing a legacy system is challenging, expensive, and time-consuming. Thus, it is essential to assess essential aspects such as the state of the legacy system, the requirements of the company, or the acceptable risks.
Although maintaining a legacy system can be expensive in some cases, the cost of replacing it can also be high. It’s essential to properly assess and plan your migration project to prevent charges from skyrocketing. For example, specific business processes must routinely adapt to IT systems to overcome system failures resulting in high costs and unpredictable consequences.
One of the most significant hazards of replacing a legacy system is that the new system would fail to meet business requirements. This is frequently owing to the outdated system’s lack of technical specifications. This may result in errors or changes in core business operations and rules specified in the software, resulting in some necessary data or functionality loss.
It isn’t easy to create a new system with the same features and functionality as the legacy system. Even if the legacy system was built using an outdated programming language or technology, it could not be easy to find skilled professionals to lead the migration.
Privacy is the key; all data must be migrated correctly to avoid data loss. As a result, businesses must verify that all data can be safely removed, that old and new formats are compatible, and that data is thoroughly tested and validated.
User experience is another issue that is frequently disregarded. When it comes to preparing for a migration to a new system, everyone needs to be involved. Some older users may be reluctant to make changes, and incorporating their feedback can help you implement a solution that they are more comfortable with.
Properly evaluating all of these aspects will help companies decide which option is best for their business: replace outdated software or systems with new ones, move to the cloud, or rebuild or improve some part of the systems architecture.
Why is it essential to modernize a legacy system for the future
In reality, it’s all about good UI/UX design. Websites that look dated and reminiscent of teachers’ PowerPoint presentations are off-putting. Flowing and attractive design is a must in today’s competitive world.
Unfortunately, web and mobile applications built with outdated technologies have limited design. For example, Silver Light, a media player developed by Microsoft years ago, will be obsolete in a year, so all platforms and websites built on it will be obsolete.
It is one of the CIO’s responsibilities in the company to ensure that all systems are working correctly. Old-school solutions were developed in times when security regulations were not as strict, and the costs of security breaches were low. In the age of GDPR, any security issues can lead to huge losses.
Employees and customers
User satisfaction is a critical component of business success. Companies improve customer satisfaction and employee performance using modern innovative systems with a well-developed user interface and user-centric experience.
Businesses are ready for the digital age.
Businesses need to maximize their efficiency and productivity in an increasingly competitive world. Modernizing legacy systems is the first step on the journey to digital transformation.
People are connected across various devices such as smartphones and tablets in today’s digital world, resulting in multiple touchpoints with customers. The concept of big data implies a marketer’s ability to assemble and segment a large amount of information gathered from the devices mentioned above with minimal effort to better target consumers. The optimization of the data system makes it possible to use the possibilities of Big Data to exploit them fully.
Another aspect of legacy systems that comes at a high cost is failures, sometimes resulting in huge losses. Therefore, the modernization of outdated systems eliminates errors and thus improves efficiency.
What is legacy system integration?
In the business world, the integration of legacy systems is a topic of great interest. An IT systems structure governs many firms’ essential business activities based on legacy software, which, as most managers would remark, is a mixed blessing.
Legacy software relies on reliable but difficult to modify or maintain technology and can present challenges. Unlike other technologies that are likely to be upgraded without much effort, an organization’s legacy system is the integral pillar of its IT infrastructure that cannot be moved lest the entire structure collapse.
This poses a dilemma for many IT managers: replacing legacy software seems expensive and risky, but it’s also challenging to keep up with the constant demands for expanded access, new features, and overhauled processing.
Companies and governments must anticipate future requirements and fulfill people’s present basic demands. Businesses cannot overlook the fact that as the IT sector evolves, so do the technological needs of the user base.
This creates the manager’s dilemma: how can the user’s information needs be reconciled with the company’s technological possibilities? How do you provide your tech-savvy customers with data compatible with their modern systems and devices? Integrating legacy system modernization strategies are another way to ensure you keep your core system intact while still being able to incorporate the use of modern applications.
How to integrate legacy systems
Build the integration
Your ecosystem is constantly changing, so how often do you need to build a new integration? Organizations that do this want to fully own the solution and customize it to their specific needs.
However, this is a daunting undertaking, from the amount of coding required to the time it takes to maintain a proprietary integration in-house. The massive push to create legacy ERP system integration is enough to stop any organization.
This approach requires developers, which means you keep an eye out for any potential changes that might be needed. This does not necessitate big financial commitments upfront, but it does take time to create integrations.
API-centric integrations are continually updated and maintained, so you’ll need a few engineers to keep up with them. And while both approaches have their merits, they’re not exactly easy and require a lot of development experience. Therefore, many companies opt for a third, more efficient approach.
Use integration connectors
Pre-built app connectors are part of an integration platform and take much less time than the first two approaches. This approach allows organizations to set up an application in hours using a connector, with the provider managing the connector.
This accelerates your application’s time-to-value and gives you the agility, performance, and integration that other approaches can’t provide.
Why don’t companies replace legacy systems?
All organizations have old and outdated systems that are a mission-critical aspect of their day-to-day operations, called systems Legacy. Legacy systems that have been around for so long are often deeply embedded in operational processes, making them difficult to replace or change without disrupting critical workflows.
The cost of outdated technology
It’s time for an update. Whether your UI is buggy or your process is stuck, you’ll know when your system needs an update. If you’re like the US federal government, which spends 80% of their total IT budget on “operations and maintenance,” resulting from outdated legacy systems that pose security and efficiency issues, then yes…
Legacy systems require additional costs to address security and efficiency issues. Still, they can also require investments to address compliance challenges, maintenance, and missed opportunities, which add up pretty quickly. Given these costs, the most expensive route is probably not to upgrade your system.
Save money by breathing new life into your legacy system
All software has a lifespan and tends to slow down with age; while there isn’t usually a set expiration date, the software is very similar to your car. To gain those extra 2 – 5 years of functionality, some maintenance is required, which we can assist with. Consider it an upgrade! You may reduce many antiquated or even obsolete technology issues with a legacy system upgrade.
With a legacy system upgrade, you can:
- Automate your tasks and reduce manual effort
- Increase your system performance with the latest technologies
- Get access to your data via your mobile devices
- Create experiences that matter to your users
- Get an updated and more modern design
Plus, migrating your legacy data and on-premises data center to the cloud gives you 24/7 access to them over the internet, no matter where you are, for significantly less than it would cost to rebuild the systems.
Legacy modernization is a confusing umbrella term encompassing a wide range of activities and techniques.
How to decide which type of legacy upgrade is right for you
Legacy modernization is a confusing umbrella term encompassing various activities and techniques. It may sound intimidating to many people; the implementation of complex updates usually requires a lot of time, financial resources, and effort.
The most obvious obstacle to modernizing legacy applications is an organization’s inability to provide the building blocks required for containerization and automation, such as infrastructure, continuous delivery frameworks, etc.
However, before choosing the right approach, it pays to think deeply about your current condition and plans. Then you can make an informed decision about the path of modernization.
In this early phase, extensive research and planning (with the help of experienced technology specialists) are crucial to define clear goals and priorities. Try to focus on what bothers you the most, what’s most time-sensitive, and what brings the most value to your business. In this step, you can decide on the optimal solution-based approach.
Assess the current state of your software
Assessing the current state of your software is always a good place to start. Try to involve technology experts who know your business to make it more efficient. They will conduct a series of activities to confirm where you are and need to be.
These can include a comprehensive solution and market analysis, a code review, or a workshop session to discover weaknesses and areas for improvement. This is where it pays to use metrics to get a clear picture of the situation and decide how to implement the changes.
Identification of problems and definition of goals
This is the essential step on the way to your software modernization. By asking questions and examining different elements of the system, e.g., For example, performance or user experience, you can identify critical areas for improvement. This is a perfect starting point for creating a thoughtful modernization strategy and setting measurable and realistic goals for the coming weeks, months, or even years.
Analysis of legacy system modernization approaches and selecting the best
After analyzing where you are and where you want to be, it’s time to look at your upgrade options. Depending on your needs, limitations, and goals, you can take different paths. Each one has another purpose, so it’s essential to compare them before deciding.
Migration tools must be compatible with current technology architecture or functionality
Implementing technology quickly and efficiently is essential to avoid disrupting ongoing operations. Development teams can be overwhelmed by the complexity of moving to the cloud or adopting a new software architecture. For this reason, companies should use migration tools that make the process easier.
Migrations are simplified with migration tools and pre-packaged modules that enable organizations to migrate seamlessly. However, companies can always choose to rewrite all of their application code based on the new architecture. This can cost you some funds and resources, but sometimes custom apps give you a competitive edge.
“Maintaining legacy systems” costs more than “modernizing legacy systems.” Large organizations often spend fortunes just maintaining legacy systems. Because they were created for no more extended relevant needs, companies must refrain from replacing their entire IT infrastructure with modernization. Instead, they should only focus on modernizing applications that are considered mission-critical. This saves them a lot of time and resources.
Availability of the budget
An organization’s IT budget must be adequately funded for modernization. 44% of organizations cite competing priorities as the top barriers to IT modernization. A good financial plan that recognizes the need for modernization and links it to business transformation is essential to successful modernization.
Budget constraints in the middle of the modernization process will seriously impact application performance and complicate things. The lack of a clear modernization strategy is why companies don’t prepare well for modernization, and it is one of the primary reasons organizations abandon modernization in the middle. Budget unavailability can derail modernization efforts and ultimately lead to lost business.
Conclusion: How legacy modernization may improve your business
The legacy system modernization process does not happen in a moment, and it may take months or years to implement. It’s a path that differs for each business and may include executing techs such as cloud computing, cybersecurity, advanced analytics, and mobility, as previously discussed.
This legacy system modernization approach allows the business organization to completely transform its IT ecosystem based on current and future business demands, laying the groundwork for improved innovation and invention.