In today’s fast-paced digital landscape, 74% of companies fail to accomplish legacy system modernization processes, as credible sources report. One of the most critical transformations an organization can undertake is legacy application modernization. Legacy systems, while once the backbone of business operations, can become cumbersome and outdated, hindering efficiency and posing security risks. In this guide, we will take you through the process of legacy application modernization in seven comprehensive steps.

What Is a Legacy System?

A legacy system refers to any outdated computing system, encompassing both hardware and software, that remains in active use. These legacy systems encompass various elements, including computer hardware, software applications, file formats, and programming languages. While not all legacy systems are necessarily obsolete, they continue to function effectively even as technology advances. 

Organizations often retain and use legacy systems vital to their daily operations and business requirements. Legacy systems become obsolete due to reasons like no longer receiving updates or support, reliance on outdated technology, hardware incapability, the need for rare and costly skill sets for maintenance, slow repairs, excessive maintenance costs, heightened security vulnerabilities, and non-compliance with modern cybersecurity standards.

What Is a Legacy Application?

A legacy application, commonly known as a legacy app, is a software program that has become outdated or obsolete. Although these legacy apps are still functional, they may exhibit instability owing to compatibility issues with contemporary operating systems, browsers, and IT infrastructures. It is no surprise that modernizing applications is becoming a top priority for enterprises across the globe. In fact, around 80% of legacy applications will be modernized in the next five years.

Many enterprises rely on legacy applications to fulfill critical business functions, and the challenge lies in maintaining these applications while converting them into more efficient, up-to-date code compatible with current technology and programming languages. Legacy apps often remain tied to specific OS versions or coding languages, leading to compatibility challenges, such as older apps designed for Windows 7 struggling to run on Windows 10, even with added middleware or glue code.

What Is Application Modernization?

Application Modernization, also referred to as legacy modernization, involves the practice of updating older software to align with contemporary computing methods, encompassing newer languages, frameworks, and infrastructure platforms. 

This is akin to renovating an older home to harness improvements in efficiency, safety, structural integrity, and more. Instead of retiring or completely replacing existing systems, application modernization extends the life of an organization’s applications while capitalizing on technological advancements.

Application modernization serves as a means for organizations to safeguard their investments and rejuvenate their software portfolios to leverage the latest infrastructure, tools, programming languages, and other technological advancements. A well-executed application modernization strategy can reduce the resources needed to maintain an application, enhance deployment frequency and reliability, and boost uptime and resilience. 

Consequently, incorporating an application modernization plan is a standard component of an enterprise’s broader digital transformation strategy.

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Legacy Modernization Benefits: Why to Modernize Legacy Applications

Legacy systems may have served your organization well in the past, but the time has come for a transformation. Modernizing these legacy systems is not just a strategic choice; it’s a necessity to avoid the multitude of issues associated with outdated technology. Here, we explore the compelling benefits of legacy modernization:

  • Improved Security (Risk Mitigation)

Legacy systems are vulnerable to security breaches due to outdated software. Modernization mitigates these risks by allowing enterprises to benefit from regular vendor updates and patches, ensuring a more secure IT environment.

  • Improved System Performance

Over time, legacy systems tend to slow down, draining resources without delivering enhanced performance. Modern systems, including modernized legacy systems, are designed for optimal performance without resource depletion.

  • Increased Staff Productivity

Legacy systems can frustrate business users and hinder their productivity. Modernization streamlines processes, making it easier for your team to work efficiently and without frustration.

  • Improved Customer Experience

Tying your business operations to legacy systems can negatively impact the customer experience. Modernization enables the introduction of new services, automated processes, and improved user interfaces, creating a better experience for your customers.

  • Allows New Features to Be Added

Legacy systems often struggle to accommodate new features and changes. Modernization opens the door to enhancing functionality and providing an improved experience for your business users.

  • Frees Up Your IT Resources

Your IT resources are invaluable to your organization. Modernized legacy systems demand less attention from your IT team, allowing them to focus on strategic tasks that truly add value to your business.

Legacy Modernization Examples

Legacy systems, once the pillars of their operations, can morph into obstacles hindering efficiency and progress. Nonetheless, a multitude of success stories illustrate how businesses have harnessed the strength of legacy system modernization to drive their enterprises to new heights. These narratives stand as evidence of the substantial potential and advantages that modernization can deliver to any business, irrespective of its size or sector.

  1. Carhartt

The renowned US-based apparel company joined forces with IBM to breathe new life into their legacy applications. This modernization effort streamlined processes and improved employee productivity, freeing up staff to focus on strategic initiatives.

  1. Claro

As a prominent telecommunications provider in Latin America, Claro partnered with Wovenware to transition from paper-based legacy systems to fully automated operations. This modernization enhanced the customer experience, increased productivity, and reduced licensing costs.

  1. Equinix

A leading data center company, Equinix, sought to accelerate the development of new features. Modernizing their legacy system significantly boosted development team agility, quality, and speed of delivery.

  1. Goldman Sachs

This global financial services giant grappled with a complex toolchain in its legacy system, hampering the speed of execution. Legacy system modernization simplified workflows, resulting in faster execution, enhanced developer efficiency, and an improved customer experience.

  1. Quantum Aviation Solutions

Based in Atlanta, this company specializing in baggage handling systems for the airline industry modernized its Java-based legacy system into a custom web-based application. The modernized software facilitated greater mobility, scalability, and cross-platform integrations, ultimately enhancing productivity and delivery times.

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How to Modernize: Steps to Modernize Legacy Systems and Application

Modernizing legacy systems and applications is a vital step for organizations aiming to stay competitive in today’s rapidly evolving digital landscape. The process involves careful planning and execution, typically following a seven-step strategy. Here, we break down these steps to guide you through the journey of modernization.

Step 1: Evaluate Legacy Systems

The first crucial step in modernization is to evaluate your existing legacy systems against six key drivers. These drivers encompass both business and IT perspectives, including business fit, value, agility, cost, complexity, and risk. If your legacy application is falling short in terms of meeting business requirements, providing value, or adapting to digital demands, it’s a strong indicator that modernization is necessary.

Step 2: Define The Problems

Once you’ve identified the drivers that call for modernization, delve deeper into the issues. Understand what’s causing friction for users, whether they are customers or employees. It’s essential to pinpoint specific problem areas and, equally important, recognize what aspects of the legacy system are functioning effectively. This understanding will help determine your modernization approach.

Step 3: Evaluate Modernization

With a clear understanding of the problems at hand, it’s time to explore your options for modernization. There are seven approaches to application modernization, each offering varying levels of complexity and impact:

  • Retain: This approach involves reusing components within a new architecture, often accessed as services through APIs. It’s a low-risk method, allowing gradual expansion with microservices.
  • Rehost: This approach entails migrating application components to new infrastructure with minimal code modifications. It’s a quick way to move from on-premise to the cloud.
  • Replatform: Move existing code to a new platform while retaining the current code structure, features, and functions.
  • Refactor: Optimize the code by restructuring it, addressing technical debt, and improving nonfunctional attributes.
  • Rearchitect: Significantly alter the code to transition to a new architecture with advanced capabilities.
  • Rebuild: Redesign or rewrite the application from scratch while preserving its scope and specifications.
  • Replace: When a legacy system no longer serves the organization, retire it, and adopt a comprehensive product development process.

Step 4: Choose the Modernization Approach

Selecting the right modernization approach depends on various factors such as workload, architecture, cost (both upfront and ongoing), risk, operations, and security. The choice may also hinge on priorities within your organization, and considerations of competition and shifting consumer demands.

Step 5: Prepare for Future Growth and Changes

In the ever-changing landscape of technology and business, organizations must be prepared for perpetual transformation. Legacy systems, often monolithic in design, hinder adaptability to new features and capabilities. Opt for a modernization approach that offers the flexibility to accommodate future changes. For instance, refactored or re-architected software can better meet your organization’s future needs.

Step 6: Choose the Right Modernization Partner

It’s unlikely that your organization possesses all the internal resources needed to make informed decisions regarding modernization, especially when it’s not a core focus. Consider partnering with experts in digital transformation, experienced in re-engineering technology, systems, and processes through various modernization approaches. Look for a team that utilizes Agile and DevOps practices to expedite your modernization project and maximize time-to-market.

Step 7: Observe and Optimize

Once your modernization project is underway, ensure continuous testing and optimization. Iteratively test the application’s modifications to identify and address issues in hosting, software licensing, connectivity to other services, and database integration, ensuring the application adapts to evolving demands effectively.

Revitalize Your Systems with Legacy Modernization Services for a Digital Transformation

Legacy application modernization is a critical transformation that organizations must undertake to stay competitive. This comprehensive guide has taken you through the seven essential steps of legacy application modernization, from evaluation and problem definition to choosing the right modernization approach, preparing for future growth, and selecting the ideal modernization partner. Your journey towards a digitally transformed future begins with these steps.

Our legacy modernization services are designed to help you navigate this essential journey. Contact us today to learn more and embark on the path to a revitalized, efficient, and secure IT environment. Your digital transformation begins here.

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