Legacy software modernization

A practical guide for enterprises looking to face legacy system issues head-on

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Legacy systems endanger enterprises

In today’s digitally driven world, enterprises need software to survive. These systems are the foundation on which our whole economy relies. No matter the industry, all businesses are burdened by and rely upon software that—without proper oversight—become outdated.

Letting software systems languish puts organizations at risk of losing functionality or roadblocking enhancements. Yet, many organizations hesitate to modernize a legacy system. They continue to tolerate an outdated platform because it provides a core operational function—fearing that one false move could take down an entire system (or end careers).

Software doesn’t always age well. Old code lacks responsive functionality. Dated UX gives users a bad experience. An absence of accessibility and current features further alienates user groups. Meanwhile, competitors are shipping new product to market, snagging market share.

Legacy systems are not defined by years in operation. They expire because of an inability to meet organizational needs, incompatibility integrating with newer products, or are sunsetted by the vendor. Older mainframe and distributed systems often lack modern functionality, code, or interfaces and struggle to sync with contemporary offerings that both customers and employees expect. Software systems are inherently complex—legacy systems more so with years of accumulated debt from unaddressed issues.

Enterprise CEOs charge IT senior management with handling system maintenance and resolving technical debt. While it’s common to find workarounds to achieve the desired functionality, the sum of ad-hoc fixes and integrations add layers of complexity, risk, and to these applications. The cost of maintenance continues to rise over time, and the extra work doesn’t address any of the applications underlying limitations. With limited IT resources, a backlog of critical maintenance for legacy systems quickly impedes the ability to deliver enhancements or new products for the business. Replacing a monolith application at any enterprise is a highly complex undertaking—one that is often misunderstood, underfunded, and at odds with the priorities of the business. 

Just keeping software viable can require more effort and investment than replacing the outdated components. Legacy systems need maintenance (e.g., complex patching and alterations) to sustain functionality. Capturing scope to remedy the issues is difficult with decrepit business logic buried deep in dated code. The people with domain expertise are often gone, crippling the company’s ability to move quickly to resolve critical business operation issues effectively.

Replacing a monolith application at any enterprise is a highly complex undertaking, one that is often misunderstood, underfunded, and at odds with the priorities of the business. 

Fifty percent of digital leaders struggle because legacy systems grow in technical debt. Years of operating businesses successfully require changes. Ultimately changes, hacks, and lack of support prevent enterprises from quickly creating business value for their customers and keeping operational expenses in check.

Despite mainframe green screens, brownfield dated code, or out-of-support systems, companies marred by legacy issues can still compete. Fixing aging systems takes courage, calculated risks, and an iterative approach in planning, funding, and execution. Untangling the issues of an aged system and modernizing can significantly shift the trajectory of organizations for the better. 

With tech continually advancing, companies need to keep close watch over systems to ensure they operate effectively. Systems require continuous funding and support to remain viable. Reliable teams need to be in place to maintain the product, release new features, and implement integrations. This white paper covers the inherent risks of legacy applications, varied approaches for transformation initiatives, and the step-by-step action plan for companies to modernize legacy systems.

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