7 Factors That Can Make or Break Your Legacy Application Modernization
The Low Risks & High Rewards of Legacy Application Modernization
Unlike a premium whiskey, a good cheese or your favorite pair of jeans, software does not get better with age. Left on a shelf to age, legacy applications can hamstring new development and innovation, overburden teams, limit scalability, create security vulnerabilities and cost far too much to maintain and support. A legacy application is best understood as an application that has been around and in use for a number of years and may be based on outdated technologies, but is important in day-to-day operations or still meets some of the needs but doesn’t meet all of the needs. What are the dangers when once top-of-the-line software applications don’t keep pace with technological and business changes?
2007 Solutions Don’t Fix 2017 Problems
There are a number of problems with aging software applications. First, legacy applications by definition fail to meet the evolving needs of the business. Your business isn’t the same as it was ten years ago so 2007 solutions aren’t likely to fix 2017 problems. Second, so often software is developed but then the team is disbanded and funding is cut to the bare minimum for hosting and production support. The applications then limp along for the next 5-10 years without the regular maintenance that would help manage the application and grow it with the business. This neglect creates unnecessary handicaps, instability, security issues, and other problems. Third, aging software applications are notoriously hard to improve, integrate or grow. I have seen even small changes unleash a torrent of unintended outcomes and instability that can threaten the whole system. And many dated applications cannot safely scale to meet a growing business. Finally, legacy applications are often costly and cumbersome to maintain and support. Technology improves at a record pace these days, infrastructure maintenance spending on legacy applications can be significantly higher than newer cloud-based solutions. Not to mention that finding software developers to maintain the older system becomes more challenging as developers switch gears to newer technologies.
The Problems & Costs of Dated, Aging Software Applications
While a business software application may have served you and your organization well for many years, an aging application presents a number of problems and vulnerabilities that can make modernizing these legacy applications a sound business decision. What problems might you be courting with your legacy application?
The typical dated, monolithic legacy systems:
- Make even small changes potentially problematic.
- Increase system instability.
- Have increased costs as hardware and storage become more cumbersome and expensive than cloud-based solutions.
- Lack the trained talent to maintain them.
- May be under supported.
- Have integration problems that may keep you from taking advantage of third-party APIs that can reduce cost, improve performance and enhance innovation.
- Make it hard to meet compliance issues.
- May create security vulnerabilities and leave your system more vulnerable to hacking, malware, ransomware, and DDS (distributed denial of service) attacks.
- Lack the agility to quickly respond to challenges and opportunities.
- Constrain innovation and opportunity leaving your organization vulnerable to market disrupters.
- Have not kept up with the changing business needs and desires.
But just because your platform is clunky or lacks the function, stability or scale you require, doesn’t mean you have to scrap what you have and start over. Not only do legacy applications hold a wealth of critical information, modernizing existing applications can boost your bottom line by getting the most from technology you have already invested in. Likewise, modernizing your existing applications reduces the time and money involved in reinventing the wheel or starting from scratch. Further, legacy systems provide a lot of data on how business complexities are handled. By cataloging and investigating system usage using metrics from actual users, unused functionality can be removed and difficult functionality can be streamlined and improved.
The 7 Factors Can Make or Break Your Legacy Application Modernization
Legacy application modernization offers low risks and high rewards, but there are a number of critical elements that can make or break your legacy application modernization. Understanding the pitfalls and the challenges before you dive in can reduce headaches, save time and money, and minimize wasted hours & misdirection. What do you need to know to position your legacy application modernization project for success?
1. Don’t Just Migrate Old Software to a New Platform
Sometimes, when organizations attempt to modernize a legacy application, they do little more than migrate old software to a new platform. This is a start certainly, but you must also integrate both function and data. Rather than reinvent the wheel, legacy modernization encompasses a comprehensive redevelopment process that both eliminates obsolete code that constrains agility and improves relevant functionality. True modernization allows your organization to benefit from new, innovative and cheaper technologies while positioning you to quickly adapt and respond to changing business demands.
2. Look at What You Have & What You Need With a Fresh Set of Eyes
Your business isn’t the same as it was when that legacy application was first imagined and implemented. So I advise clients to not let how it has always been done constrain how you do it now. Certainly, you don’t want to reinvent the wheel but a solid understanding of application usage and missing functionality can assure you end up with a highly improved application. You can ensure that the newly modernized application grows with the organization by keeping a dedicated team and securing evergreen funding (continuous and constantly renewed funding) for the effort.
3. Don’t Neglect Analysis & Planning
You don’t want to get bogged down in all of the pitfalls of designing a new system or in the negatives of the legacy system, but with a solid analysis and a good plan, you can create a roadmap and critical path that makes the whole process of modernizing legacy applications easier and more cost effective.
4. Once You Have a Plan, Commitment From Key Stakeholders, & Subject Matter Experts, Resolve to Follow the Plan
Make sure everyone is fully engaged in the system modernization initiative from start to finish. That means getting input from key stakeholders and subject matter experts well before you create the plan. If you don’t involve these players in the process and communicate with them, you risk alienating the very people you need a commitment and buy in from.
5. Turnkeying A Legacy Application Modernization Is Optimal
Full-time employees typically have deep knowledge of legacy applications because they have used them, worked on them, and supported them for years. So, opening up the hood and modernizing a legacy application isn’t typically a fun, exciting project. Your people have been inside of the application for so long, it’s boring. Hand off the unexciting work of modernizing an old application to your legacy modernization partner and save the good stuff, the new stuff, the fun stuff for your employees. I’ve seen employee after employee grow to resent employers because all new application development is being handled by design shops, offshore partners, and/or contractors. Often, companies spend an awful lot of indirect time and money on operationalizing new technology and systems and when using non-FTEs that knowledge walks out the door when the work is done. Then companies must spend even more time and money to bring the FTEs up to speed. Why not start with the FTEs? They can perform as SMEs for legacy systems and as the workforce to bring new things to life. What better way to reward, retain and engage your best people then giving them the most fun, exciting development projects?
6. Outsourcing Legacy Application Modernization Is Good IF You Find the Right Partner
WHO modernizes your legacy application is as important as HOW your legacy application is modernized. Your modernization partner must understand your business and they must understand your scale. I’ve watched large consultancies (and large offshoring companies) work with Fortune 500s over and over on legacy modernization efforts. All too often I see people with little skill assigned to these projects resulting in dysfunction, blown deadlines, and exploded budgets. Large consulting companies often don’t regard modernizing an application as the cutting edge, exciting work they want to do. Here at STATEMENT, we are a boutique firm specializing in modernization. We don’t just know how to do it well, we love the work of transforming applications for our customers. We get excited showing our clients what we can do, how we can save them money AND rocket their legacy applications into the future. Kendall Flagg and I, Statement’s founders, have worked at or consulted for companies such as Arthur Andersen LLP, Deloitte Consulting, AIG, Bank of America, Liberty Mutual, Mattel, AllTel, Dell, Nike, and more giving us a depth and breadth of experience. We don’t throw resources at legacy modernization projects haphazardly, we use a data driven approach to form a team from our experienced developers. The resulting, skillful, optimized, and knowledgeable product team will modernize and optimize your legacy applications to improve the user experience and reduce your total ownership costs. Likewise, Kendall Flagg and I helm, and are hands on, every single project we take on assuring that the right mix of innovation and reusability is achieved and our clients get precisely what they need.
7. Keep In Mind the Available Benefits of Legacy Application Modernization When Planning
While modernizing a legacy application can be cost effective, there is still a significant cost to this undertaking. So if you are spending the money to update and modernize an existing application, make sure you are getting the full range of benefits out of it. Understanding what benefits you should be getting can inform the planning process. Likewise, it is helpful to revisit these benefits after planning to make sure you hit all of your bases before you move forward.
- Improved Security
- Greater stability
- Increased agility
- Enhanced performance
- Improved scalability
- Modern, clean UI
- More opportunities for innovation & quick response to market changes
- Cheaper, safer, better storage solutions
- Ease of integration
- Ability to utilize third-party APIs
- Better support internally & externally
Application modernization is a complex, labor-intensive process with plenty of potential pitfalls. Still, with the right modernization partner, the results are incredible. Here at STATEMENT, we develop and deliver services and solutions that reduce the cost of transitioning legacy applications and data from computing systems to modern architectures. We manage every facet of legacy modernization from start to finish. We help businesses of all sizes prepare for the digital future. From Fortune 500s to smaller operations, we assure our clients rapidly evolve in the digital marketplace. Don’t leave your organization open to lost business opportunities or disruption from leaner, more responsive operations. For more information on how STATEMENT can help your business be more digital ready and rocket into future, contact us online or call us at 1.800.640.5589.