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Legacy Modernization: Making Outmoded Systems Fit for the Future

To stand out from the crowd, today’s organizations must adapt and innovate – embracing change and leveraging the very latest tech. But legacy systems, which have reliably underpinned day-to-day business for years, are often unable to handle rapidly increasing complexity. That’s why legacy-system modernization is now becoming a strategic imperative. Read on to find out more.

Why Modernize Your Legacy Systems?

Legacy systems are the beating heart of many companies, ensuring that their business runs smoothly and generating significant value. However, as tech rapidly evolves, systems of this kind can hamper innovation and competitiveness.

That’s hardly surprising: Older systems tend to be built on outdated technologies, programming languages, and architectures – potentially making them incompatible with today’s tech and practices. Worse still, outmoded technologies can present serious security risks.

Legacy systems are also often difficult to maintain since their outmoded elements may no longer be in widespread use or supported by vendors. What’s more, these systems are operated on cost-intensive hardware or in expensive execution environments, driving up IT spend.

Finally, legacy systems lack the agility demanded by today’s fast-changing business world. This is largely due to their complexity and monolithic architectures, which can make adding new features and scaling up in line with rising user loads both challenging and costly.

The A, B, C of Legacy Modernization

When maintaining legacy systems is no longer an option, then either the core technology or underlying business model must be replaced. This usually entails a makeover of the platform infrastructure, internal architecture, and features of legacy applications – in other words, application modernization.

Full-scale legacy modernization goes further still. In addition to functional evolution, it comprises restructuring and paradigm shifts, for example. Here, the focus is on rethinking and redesigning the system architecture to address limitations and meet present and future needs.

Owing to its inherent technical and organizational complexity, legacy-system modernization poses significant challenges. Careful planning, evaluation, and decision-making are therefore necessary to ensure that initiatives are completed successfully and deliver the desired results.


Step by Step to Success: Approaches to Modernizing Legacy Systems

Before looking more closely at these challenges and how best to address them, let’s first consider some common ways of modernizing legacy systems. Broadly, there are the following six approaches:

  • Integration

  • Consolidation

  • Migration

  • Modularization

  • Service-oriented architecture

  • Wrapping/Layering

Integration and Consolidation

Integrating a legacy system with a new system involves creating APIs, middleware, or microservices that connect the existing system with the latest applications and technologies. This allows data to be exchanged between the two environments and functionalities to be shared.

Modernization also offers valuable opportunities to consolidate IT. For example, organizations may decide to migrate multiple standalone applications and systems to a single, cutting-edge platform, enabling formerly disparate solutions to operate on a common technological foundation.

Migration and Modularization

A migration transfers the entire legacy system from its current platform to a new, state-of-the-art infrastructure – such as a cloud-based solution or virtualized environment. This not only makes for greater scalability, flexibility, and cost-effectiveness; it also minimizes disruption to ongoing operations.

As mentioned, many legacy architectures are monolithic, making it difficult to restrict upgrades or replacements to individual parts of the system. Modularization (breaking a system down into smaller, independent components) helps organizations take an incremental approach to modernizing or replacing individual modules.

SOA and Wrapping/Layering

Another way of modernizing a legacy system is to transform it into a service-oriented architecture (SOA) and deliver functionality in the form of independent services. These services are accessed and orchestrated via APIs, again delivering greater flexibility and scalability, as well as facilitating integration with other systems.

And finally, there’s wrapping/layering. Here, the existing system is encapsulated within a modern external layer or interface. This builds a bridge between the two worlds, supporting interaction and integration, without necessitating changes to legacy code.

Things to Bear in Mind if You’re Thinking of Modernizing

Legacy-system modernization offers a host of attractive opportunities. But as mentioned, it can be a dauntingly complex undertaking. It’s therefore necessary to consider a number of points before embarking on a journey of this kind.

First, take the time to gain a firm understanding of your organization’s strategic goals and make sure that your modernization effort is aligned with these. Next, you need to take a long hard look at your legacy system and weigh up its strengths, weaknesses, and dependencies.

Clear Planning/Effective Risk Management

Next, draw up a clearly defined modernization strategy, outlining the goals, approach, timeline, and resource allocation for the project. At this point, you should also identify and assess the risks associated with modernizing your legacy systems. Doing so will enable you to develop an effective risk management plan, including mitigation strategies and contingency plans.

As with any project that’s liable to have a major impact, be sure to deploy effective change management practices. This will help you enlist the support of stakeholders, manage resistance to change, and ensure that the transition goes off smoothly.

And finally, if your approach includes migrating data from your legacy system to a new environment, be sure to develop a comprehensive data-migration plan.

Much More than a Nice-to-Have

Gone are the days when modernizing older systems was an optional luxury. Modernization is now a must for any organization that wants to continue to thrive in the digital age. The good news is that legacy-system modernization can deliver many appealing benefits – from revitalizing operations and driving innovation, right through to enhancing customer experiences. And this can enable organizations that modernize to position themselves as industry leaders.

Interested in Finding Out More?

If you’re considering modernizing your legacy system and want to know more about the preparation and approaches involved, feel free to reach out to me. And, as ever, you’re welcome to share your thoughts about and insights into this month’s featured tech in the comments.

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