6 Mistakes to Avoid When Modernizing Legacy Applications

Manju Naglapur | 5 min read

Application Modernization is now a reality that cannot be ignored. Technology changes rapidly, and the cost of maintaining legacy applications continues to rise. Most organizations have an average of 15-20% of their budget tied up in legacy application maintenance costs. It’s not uncommon for this figure to be as high as 40%. If you want your company to stay relevant in today’s market, application modernization has become an inevitable undertaking.

“Legacy solutions lack flexibility and carry a significant technology debt due to dated languages, databases (and) architectures,” – Deloitte Survey

When it comes to legacy application modernization projects, companies need a smart approach. There are many ways to modernize legacy applications, but it’s important not to let the modernization process consume too much company time and resources. Also, let alone not interfere with existing processes and workflows and could disrupt your current business operations.

In this article, we will talk about the common mistakes you want to avoid when you are down the path of modernizing your legacy system.

Mistake 1 – Not getting buy-in and commitment from stakeholders

Organizations are often asked to modernize their application portfolio. Unfortunately, that can be a challenge when the business is not fully on board with the project. The key to success in this situation is executive buy-in and commitment from both sides of the aisle – IT and Business.

In order to secure buy-in and commitment, prepare a good business plan with a clear ROI. Create a detailed presentation of your modernization project that clearly communicates what needs to be done, why it’s important, and how all parties involved will benefit from it. The advantage of this approach is that you will get real-time feedback from stakeholders as they approve or reject certain approaches/recommendations before you even start the project.

Mistake 2 – Thinking legacy application modernization is a one-time event

Modernizing a legacy application is not a one-time event. It’s an ongoing process that requires constant attention and maintenance. The biggest mistake companies make with modernization projects is to treat them as a one-time project. This mindset leads to the assumption that once you’ve modernized your app, it will be good for years to come without any further investment from IT or developers.

But this isn’t realistic because no matter how well designed and implemented the new version of the application, there are always going to be changes in business requirements that require additional work on the legacy systems – even after they have been migrated into a container environment like Docker or Kubernetes. We call this “legacy maintenance” – maintaining legacy applications over time through incremental improvements rather than wholesale upgrades every few years (which was typical before containers).

Mistake 3 – Assuming that all needs can be met with an off-the-shelf solution

Our interaction with different clients who approached CompuGain for application modernization projects revealed that many companies had tried to use off-the-shelf solutions to modernize their application. However, they could not get the value out of those solutions as they were not designed for their purposes.

We do appreciate the idea of modernizing applications without having to rewrite them from scratch. But you need to consider your business use cases and decide if an off-the-shelf solution is going to solve your problem today and in-future. With our clients, we understand their specific project requirements; we don’t use templates or canned solutions like other vendors do. We build new applications using cloud architectures, such as AWS CloudFormation and EC2 Container Service (ECS) that focus on supporting your business growth instead of dealing with technology issues.

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Mistake 4 – Failing to plan for changes in technology and user expectations over time

Modernizing your application is a big endeavor, and it’s not something you can do once. You’ll need to constantly update the application over time with new features or user experiences. The problem here is that most companies don’t plan for this future development work in their initial modernization project costs. They either under-budget or they just assume that adding on new features will be easy down the road when they’re needed. Unfortunately, this means that many companies end up rewriting their applications from scratch because of poor planning and budgeting.

Mistake 5 – Trying to modernize too many parts of your system at once

When you try to modernize too many parts of your system at once, it can take months or even years before you see the benefits. Modernizing is important for improving efficiency and increasing productivity, but trying to do everything all at once makes this process incredibly difficult.

We recommend that you keep the old legacy system functional and run a new system in parallel until it is fully debugged, improved and remains stable. The Strangler Pattern Approach allows you to build a new system around an existing one and incrementally migrate functionality. This helps speed up the modernization process by reducing compatibility risks and eliminating delays caused by incompatible technology components that are being updated simultaneously. The result? You get faster results with less effort!

Mistake 6 – Not assessing organizational readiness for change before starting work on modernizing legacy applications

When companies don’t assess organizational readiness for change before starting work on modernizing legacy applications, they often run into problems – a lot of wasted time and effort, as well as unhappy employees who may resist the changes being made.

We recommend using the Organizational Readiness Assessment (ORA) framework to help organizations avoid these issues by helping them understand what their current state looks like in terms of people, processes and technology. By using this approach you will be able to identify gaps between where your organization is today and where it needs to go in order to meet its business goals. After completing the ORA you’ll have a roadmap outlining what steps need to be taken next so that your organization can realize maximum value from its modernization efforts while minimizing resistance from key stakeholders along the way.

If you’re a company that has been around for any period of time, it is likely that your business relies on some type of legacy application. These are older systems which provide critical functionality but have fallen behind the times with regards to their design and architecture. As such, they may take up more resources than necessary, lack scalability or security features desired by today’s businesses. If you are considering application modernization, we hope this article will help you make an informed choice by understanding the costs, risk, and potential outcomes associated with legacy app modernization projects.

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