Digital transformation has become extremely important for application leaders to find good ways to modernize legacy systems. However, the biggest challenge in this situation is knowing the risk-to-reward ratio before making a move.
Many organizations see legacy systems as the cornerstone that holds back the business initiatives and business processes. When a tipping point is reached, application leaders have to look into legacy application modernization to help overcome the obstacles. This means that each of the tools your business uses will be replaced by better and improved versions.
To help yourself go through this process as smoothly as possible, take a look at these handpicked factors that need to be considered when modernizing your legacy applications.
What is legacy application modernization exactly?
Legacy application modernization refers to the process where an outdated application is updated or rebuilt to effectively work in modern runtime environments and with other applications.
These applications were created with outdated technologies that make it difficult to update, improve, and transport the application. The apps are usually slow, and they need to be replaced with a more modern version since they are essential to a company’s business operations.
Now let’s get down to the top 5 considerations when modernizing legacy applications.
Identify symptoms of a legacy application
First of all, it is worth taking a look at some of the symptoms that may indicate that an app is a legacy application. This means that it is either underperforming or becoming obsolete:
- Slow processing
- Errors and exceptions
- Deficiencies or limitations
Some other, more hidden problems, can happen too. However, these problems will show up eventually as one of the three visible symptoms listed above. Having a good understanding of these common symptoms can help evaluate what is happening and what reasonable options exist that could work as a fix.
Evaluate the app’s role in the organization
Now that you have covered the first base, it is important to take a step back and think for a moment. Take some time to evaluate the role the application has within the company.
Try to find answers to the following questions:
- What would happen if your app stopped running entirely?
- Do you have any plans for the organization if that happens?
- How important is the app to your business?
- Can industry changes have an impact on your application?
- To what extent can the industry changes impact the app?
Keep in mind that it is very important to get multiple opinions from a variety of stakeholders, including users, developers, business associates, and consultants.
Once the opportunity is picked and the problem is identified, take a look at modernization options.
Experts have ranked seven options by the ease of implementation. In essence, the easier it is, the less risk and impact it will have on the system and the business processes; the harder, the more risk and impact.
- Encapsulate. Leverage and extend the application features by encapsulating its data and functions, making them available as services through an API.
- Rehost. Redeploy the app component to other infrastructure without changing its code, features, or functions.
- Replatform. Migrate to a new runtime platform, making minor changes to the code, but not the code structure, features, or functions.
- Refactor. Restructure and optimize the existing code to remove technical debt.
- Rearchitect. Materially change the code to shift it to a new app architecture and explore new capabilities.
- Rebuild. Redesign or rewrite the app component from the ground app but still preserving the scope and specs.
- Replace. Eliminate the previous app component entirely and replace it.
Uncover organizational boundaries
The constraints and boundaries that are holding your company back from making a change need to be identified and dealt with accordingly. Think about it. What is keeping you back from writing a blank check to someone to redevelop or fix the whole app?
The vast majority of reasons that prevent organizations from taking immediate action come down to three constraints.
- Lack of funds or resources
- Lack of internal expertise
Try to nail down these obstacles and you will have a smooth modernization process.
Choose the right modernization approach
This should be your last step. You have to choose the right modernization approach with the highest effect and value.
The approach directly dictates the effect and value your company will have with the modernization process. This relates to the seven modernization options we have listed above. It is directly related to these options in terms of their effect on technology, architecture, functionality, cost, and risk.
The cost of maintaining legacy applications
Maintaining legacy applications can take up a lot of time, work, and money. Since these applications are harder to update, security issues can arise as new threats pop up quickly.
There is a 2018 report from the US government that demonstrates how legacy applications remain in use despite potential security risks. According to the report, ‘legacy systems may also operate with known security vulnerabilities that are either technically difficult or prohibitively expensive to address and may hinder agencies’ ability to comply with critical cybersecurity statutory and policy requirements.’
In simpler words, it costs too much to replace legacy systems and apps, even though it could mean that various agencies would fall out of regulatory compliance. On top of that, an attack on a federal government legacy application could have its own cost in terms of stolen data and personally identifiable information.
According to a survey by Logicalis, a piece of information and communications infrastructure and service provider, 54% of CIOs spend half their time “keeping the lights on,” and a greater majority say they dedicate 40% to 60% of their time managing legacy IT.
That certainly is a lot of time and requires a significant portion of an IT budget.
In the end, modernizing legacy applications means choosing between rearchitecting, rebuilding, or replacing. Keep in mind that rearchitecting has medium costs and risks. On the other hand, rebuilding or replacing guarantees the best results with higher costs and risks.
So, weigh in all options and see what effect you want to make. Then, determine the budget and go for it.
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