Legacy Systems Modernization

Lukasa Insights

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How to know when your company’s technology needs an upgrade, and what to do about it 

When it comes to the technology necessary to compete in today’s fast-paced digitally driven market, many companies find themselves in hot water.

If you’re using systems that were fine for their time but are now past prime, you may gradually have grown so accustomed to silos and slowdowns, bugs and bottlenecks, disconnects and workarounds, that you don’t even realize these slowly simmering inconveniences and weaknesses are reaching a boiling point—if not causing a total meltdown, certainly preventing optimal health and progress.

All systems eventually need updating or replacement. Legacy systems are simply technologies (hardware or software), which, although they may still function, are outdated due to age or innovation. They’re typically monolithic—all-in-one, self-contained, single-tier applications. Although simple to develop, over time, they tend to become big and unwieldy, hard to manage and keep up-to-date.

Legacy systems are problematic for many reasons. They’re inefficient, disjointed, cumbersome, inflexible, unstable, and incompatible with more modern technologies. They’re difficult and expensive to maintain, requiring increasingly specialized skill sets. They prevent automation and limit scalability. They diminish user and customer experience and undermine security and compliance. Rarely can legacy systems provide the level of data insight and analytics necessary to compete in today’s market, or keep up with the constantly accelerating pace of change and disruption. They can even make it hard for your company to attract and retain talent. 

Ultimately, legacy systems slow your business down, drain resources, inhibit growth, and limit profitability. 

Legacy system modernization is the ongoing process of updating and transforming legacy systems to improve efficiency, flexibility, agility, and data consistency; facilitate communication across platforms; optimize user and customer experience; and reduce complexity and costs.  

From the inside, though, it’s easy to understand why businesses keep working with legacy technologies. In many cases, the old system was customized to play a pivotal role in powering fundamental business processes. For all its faults, it feels familiar and comfortable; enterprise leaders may fear the organization lacks the expertise to adapt to new technology. Or they may be concerned about the scope of a modernization project—the time, effort, and cost it will entail.

So, how do you know when it’s time to modernize legacy systems?
Put simply, according to Gartner, “If the legacy application is not meeting the new requirements imposed by digital business, it needs to be modernized.”

Gartner recommends evaluating your current system using six key drivers. Three from a business perspective: business fit, business value, and agility. And three on the IT side: the cost of your system, its complexity, and the risk it involves (from security and compliance to support and scalability). 

Here are some practical, real-world questions to ask:

  • Are we able to receive and process diverse data formats—from internal apps and partner systems?
  • How quickly and efficiently can we manage an increase in data volume?
  • Does every integration with a new program require customization? 
  • How quickly can we identify and resolve processing errors, security issues, etc.?
  • What resources are we spending on our current system? How much talent, time, and money are going into supporting legacy technologies?

There are many routes to Legacy system modernization. It is neither a one-size-fits-all proposition nor does it necessarily require a wholesale replacement. Consider these factors:

  • How serious are the issues the old system is causing our business?
  • What features of our current system are working well for us?
  • What are our goals for modernization? 
    • What fundamental problem do we need to solve? 
    • What business objectives will modernization serve?

Modernization Approaches, Tools, and Strategies.

From adjustments and upgrades to major overhauls, here are some of the modernization options you might utilize.

  • In contrast to monolithic systems, microservices, which emphasize API (Application Programming Interface—intermediary software that enables different applications to communicate with each other), allow you to choose best-in-breed programs, then scale or change out as needed.
  • Cloud migration, also called rehosting or lift and shift, moves your current system to the cloud. It can preserve the look, feel, and functionality you’re used to while offering the essential benefits of cloud computing, in a pay-as-you-go plan. A cost-effective “quick fix,” it requires no new development or architecture but has certain limitations.
  • Automation enables individual tasks to run independently, while orchestration incorporates several tasks into a single process or workflow.
  • Encapsulation improves user experience by integrating the main legacy component into a modern platform
  • Replatforming transfers your system and data to a new platform while retaining its current functions, features, and basic code structure 
  • Refactoring improves existing code while preserving external processes 
  • Rearchitecting overhauls and improves the structure of the legacy code to modernize application architecture 
  • Rebuilding is a custom redesign of the application to your company’s specs and scope
  • Replacement may be necessary when, for a variety of reasons, a legacy system no longer serves your business. It’s an opportunity to start fresh, analyze the problem holistically, and find the optimal solution. 

At Lukasa, our veteran business and technology experts are legacy system modernization specialists who work from the inside. We partner with your existing team to gain a comprehensive understanding of your organization's goals and pain points. Analyzing your systems through a modern lens, we help you ask the right questions, and choose the optimum modernization strategy for your company’s unique needs.

About Lukasa - lukasa.com
Lukasa empowers small-to-medium-sized businesses by designing and implementing custom business and technology solutions that drive efficiency, productivity, and innovation, enabling them to stay ahead in today’s rapidly-changing competitive landscape.