When you are talking about the future success of your business, you don’t think about the legacy of your business being the outdated IT infrastructure you’ve managed to keep running for all these years. And yet many businesses today have failed to take the steps needed to modernize their applications.
The reasons for not modernizing applications vary from business to business. But they include believing that it is an arduous task, not having the budget for it, questions about the ROI it will deliver or not having the expertise to use increasingly complex aspects of modern business technology. Thus, many businesses keep their legacy systems in operation.
But according to a report by Flexera, the majority of technology products have a lifecycle of just five years. Technological obsolescence is a reality. And, though your business may have started with the latest and greatest in modern applications, it wasn’t long before they became outdated.
This was fine for a time, but we have reached the point where modernizing your applications is no longer a luxury or an option you can think about. It is an absolute necessity if you want to strengthen your business continuity, manage your day-to-day operations affordably and ensure your data security.
At the end of the day, the advantages of application modernization far outweigh the disadvantages. But here is some more information about the importance of and reasons why application modernization should be part of your digital transformation strategy,
What is Legacy Application Modernization ?
Legacy application modernization refers to the process of transforming or converting your legacy system into a modern IT infrastructure. Common reasons to do this are so that you can reduce IT costs while improving consistency, flexibility and collaboration across every aspect of your company.
You can think of it as a software update. Once your legacy application modernization has been completed, you will build a robust modern platform that combines the strength of your old business applications with all the benefits that current technology and software architectures have to offer.
The hidden costs of operating a legacy system are no secret. In fact, research by Avanade from almost five years ago was already showing that businesses that had successfully modernized their legacy application reduced their overall running costs by 13% as well as increased their annual revenue by at least 14%.
And yet despite the dozens of articles and studies highlighting the importance of legacy modernization, many businesses have simply stuck to a ‘lift and shift’ approach to their cloud migration or moving an application ‘as is’ to a cloud platform.
The challenges Legacy Systems and Outdated Technology Present
Legacy systems come with a multitude of challenges, and a few of them include:
Obsolete or outdated technology – Technology is advancing at an incredible pace, with new innovations being developed every day. Legacy applications use old technology – some are so old that they are obsolete and can’t be updated or even upgraded to integrate with modern applications that have become vital to businesses today.
Lack of skills to manage legacy applications – Businesses worry about not having employees with the skills needed to understand and manage the complexities of modern applications, but the reverse applies as well. People aren’t learning about old technology anymore. And, as employees retire or move on, they have no one with the experience needed to maintain their legacy applications.
Poor documentation – If you’ve ever tried to troubleshoot a problem with a Windows Vista system, you know that there is very little information available on old systems and applications. Any information you find is so outdated it’s irrelevant, entirely incorrect or incomplete.
Lack of vendor support – As application vendors update their products, they phase out support for older versions of their software. Examples would include Windows no longer offering support for systems running their Vista OS and the popular instant messaging app WhatsApp no longer working on older smartphones.
Continuing to use legacy applications can have a serious impact on your business continuity due to their unreliability. Not only do they often incur high maintenance costs, but there is also the risk of a domino effect where one problem can lead to another. And, before you know it – all of your business applications are offline.
According to IBM, 90% of current applications will still be used by 2025 but won’t receive modernization investment. And yet that same report states that 67% of organizations consider legacy modernization a top priority. With the majority of CIOs spending 60-80% of their time on day-to-day IT management, the need for modern applications with built-in AI-powered automation is becoming essential to unlocking the rich rewards that wholesale digital transformation promises.
The Three Main Benefits of Legacy Application Modernization
The simple truth is that not all applications need to be modernized, and not all applications can be modernized. However, legacy applications, which Gartner defines as applications that are critical to day-to-day operations but may be based on outdated technologies – are strategic to your business. And in their case, the benefits of modernization outweigh the cost.
Decisions about whether or not to modernize your applications often come down to a question of costs. While there is obviously a cost to modernizing applications and migrating to newer technology, there is also a significant cost to not including application modernization in your digital transformation strategy.
Reduced support costs – Maintaining a legacy application can become expensive, especially after an application vendor has phased out support for the platforms or servers you’re using – or when there are no developers left who know the code your application uses and can help with maintaining it. Sometimes, you can upgrade these outdated applications with SaaS or even free open-source offerings. Other times, it may be better to sunset the application in question or discontinue its use entirely.
Reduced resource usage – Most enterprise applications run in virtual machines (VM) on physical servers. By switching to containers, which are essentially the cloud-based version of a VM but without the need for an operating system image, you reduce the number of resources you need to operate those applications, the most significant resource-saving being memory. With container orchestrators like OpenShift or Kubernetes, balancing workloads becomes more efficient.
Reduced license costs – Most classic business software includes a license cost. But because of how successful open-source software has been, a lot of classic commercial software can be replaced with open-source software. And open-source software is free. At the same time, modern development libraries, runtimes and tools can save resources and are more affordable due to how many of them are based on open-source technology.
More Business Agility
Technology is advancing every day, and as these advances make it easier and faster for us to perform tasks – the pace of change will only accelerate. So your critical applications need to evolve if you want to keep up with current technology, meet and exceed user expectations and rapidly introduce new features and capabilities.
Development of new and better features is possible – Many enterprise applications grew rapidly over their lifetime, with multiple people working on their development. This led to high rates of technical debt being incurred, which in turn places a strain on the budget and resources needed to keep applications maintained. This also made developing new and better features harder. With these types of legacy applications, it often saves you, in the long run, to refactor and re-architect them because it naturally accelerates your digital transformation to have modern applications in place.
More agility and faster time to market – Deploying new versions of or updates to monolithic applications is typically a time-consuming and complex process. By adopting DevOps best practices like CI/CD and using containers and/or container orchestration platforms like Kubernetes to deploy your business applications, you make it easier to deliver applications more frequently. By breaking monolithic applications into smaller deployable units or microservices, you can focus on updating just one part of your application rather than the whole thing, which saves you time and money.
The drive for innovation in delivering an engaging user experience is another reason why application modernization is essential. Not only does it improve the user experience for your customers, but it can also improve the UX for your employees and developers.
Improved team performance & productivity – Modern applications are inherently more efficient, thanks to built-in automation and collaboration features. According to a study by Forrester, your development team’s productivity can be enhanced by as much as 40% by upgrading your legacy applications. Modernizing legacy applications also makes them more flexible, so a department where fast processing speeds are essential isn’t restricted by a different department that needs more storage space.
Improved compliance & customer support – Not complying with industry regulations can cost companies millions of dollars. By offering top-notch services that adhere to software compliance standards, you’re getting an edge over your competitors. Manually updating logs and reports is a headache with legacy applications, especially if they require reams of paper to do so. Modern systems automate a lot of those tasks. And with built-in advanced encryption and security measures, your data is a lot safer.
What goes without saying when it comes to modernizing any application is the fact that doing so makes it more secure. Cyber threats are increasing at an alarming pace, with malicious actors coming up with ever more sophisticated ways to gain access to your business data. Considering the fact that 2021 had the highest average cost for data breaches in 17 years, the need to keep your data secure is more important than ever.
Any company needs to be able to articulate the reasons why modernizing their applications is a wise decision. Increased agility, the ability to deliver better experiences for all and cost reductions are three of the main factors to consider when determining which projects get the green light. And, as you can see, modernizing your applications ticks all three of those boxes and then some.