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Here’s What to Look for When Modernizing Your Legacy Software

By: Lyle Small


update concept, software upgrade icon on virtual screen

In today’s changing corporate world, updating your old applications and system infrastructure is vital to boost business efficiency and customer satisfaction. Moving to contemporary, agile technologies means fewer system failures and more employee productivity. Modernizing your legacy software eliminates potential vulnerabilities and technological debt for the security department, which cybercriminals use to access intellectual property and data illegally.

In summary, you should ensure that your systems are up to date at all times. Remember that failing to modernize can have a significant impact on revenue, earnings, and brand reputation.

While the need to upgrade software is paramount, the modernization path isn’t smooth, and there are plenty of things you should look out for. These things include:

Knowledge of existing systems

A recent independent study report on the State of Modernization shows that 41% of the 200+ IT leaders interviewed were extremely confident that they knew enough about their applications to start the modernization process.

However, after the process began, only 28% were confident and knew what they were doing. IT leaders usually underestimate the understanding of their systems required to identify and organize the processes necessary for a successful modernization initiative.

This often leads to costly delays and failures. Even when businesses understood the need to understand the present state of their applications, poll respondents believed that their support staff could meet these requirements. Despite recognizing that many employees had retired, many didn’t bother hiring skilled staff. Others had had difficulty locating and retaining replacement talent.

Before you start the software modernization process, you should extract up-to-date, detailed documentation that provides your whole IT team with a solid grasp of the logic, complexity, and dependencies of your legacy programs. This documentation will also assist you check that the modified application has no technical debt or security threats.

As you can tell, extracting the documentation is challenging. When done manually, it is difficult, time-consuming, and error-prone, especially when millions of lines of code in many programming languages are included.

The process becomes even more difficult when the languages are legacy languages only an aged, retiring staff can understand and assess.

81% of IT leaders interviewed agreed that hiring and retaining legacy programmers is difficult. While 36% of respondents believed that increased hiring or outsourcing may fix this problem, industry experts point out that firms reliant on old technology face many challenges as the skill pool diminishes.

The most effective and reliable option to extract data is to employ an automated platform to extract meta-data from current programs and generate documentation that delves deeply into code complexity, dependencies, and logic.

Automated systems that provide detailed information about the source applications and support different languages are suitable because they reduce the danger of manual errors, failures due to a lack of knowledge, and the need to hunt for expensive staff with diverse skills.

Biting off more than you can chew

Organizations try to modernize applications without proper preparations or established and verified methods that can be deployed in stages. As you can tell, this often leads to problems.

The “big bang” approach to modernization carries significant hazards. Critically, it does not allow the evaluation of intermediate deliverables to establish whether the end goals can be met. This often catches businesses off guard when flaws that could have been spotted earlier with intermediate results are only discovered during final deliverable testing.

Instead of doing everything once, the best way to approach the issue is to have a phased approach. A phased approach, divides the project into smaller, more manageable segments with intermediate objectives. This not only makes your work easy, but also helps you keep things on track.

To eliminate bottlenecks, you should build well-defined and repeatable processes that you can use throughout the modernization lifecycle.

If you are wondering how you can come up with a phased approach, here is an example:

  • Agree on the business goals for a modernization program while keeping organizational restrictions in mind.
  • Evaluate and document legacy applications, including important dependencies.
  • Determine or validate the optimal way to modernize each application. The most popular ways are replacement, rebuilding, and refactoring.
  • Create a modest, well-defined project (pilot project) to evaluate each path to modernization. This includes establishing the processes for each path and identifying intermediate deliverables that you can assess for success.
  • Regroup with key stakeholders after the pilot project to revise processes and expectations based on what you disclosed during implementation. Before scaling up, you should start small and document your finalized processes.

Synchronizing the software with modern policies

Large modernization projects can take several months or even years to complete. During this time, it is impossible for organizations not to adjust their business policies in reaction to economic conditions or legislative changes. As a result, for such projects, businesses must continue to change production applications to maintain functional equivalence with newer versions.

Remember that if you modernize your systems without paying attention to modern policies, you might end up with an outdated system that doesn’t serve you as you intended.

To avoid this, make use of modernization systems. These technologies not only automate documentation generation, but they also allow for continual updates to that content through code modifications. This makes it easy for modernization teams to monitor these changes and their impact on the work being done.

Parting shot

Software modernization is no longer a choice; it is a must. Today, specialized legacy programmers are scarce and expensive and will soon be unavailable.

Furthermore, security flaws and vulnerabilities in outdated legacy systems will become increasingly pronounced, resulting in catastrophic operational failures. Using old systems will stifle innovation, decrease productivity, and raise expenses. You don’t want this, do you?

Businesses that delay modernizing their software will end up spending more for less in the long run, resulting in reputational harm and, eventually, market share loss. To have an easy time modernizing your software, you should familiarize yourself with ways to avoid blind spots, impediments, and typical mistakes connected with application modernization initiatives.

It’s also wise to work with experienced professionals with the necessary skills and knowledge to help you walk the path.

Published: January 22, 2024

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Lyle Small

Lyle Small is an experienced content strategist and writer. He has authored articles on business and finance for over 10 years at various trade publications, and is a former graphic artist.

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