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Modernizing Legacy Systems: A Roadmap for Successful Integration

Posted on June 24, 2024

By Robert Sweeney

July 22, 2024

Maintaining and supporting outdated software and applications gobbles up 60-80% of a company’s IT budget. These legacy systems, essentially old software or hardware still in operation, linger in many organizations despite better, more efficient alternatives being available. Yet, the process of modernizing legacy systems is fraught with challenges and risks but is indispensable for enhancing performance, security, compatibility, and functionality.

Addressing these challenges and opportunities, this article lays out a clear roadmap for organizations eager to embrace contemporary technologies—think cloud computing, microservices, and AI—to strengthen efficiency and secure their spot in the competitive landscape of the 21st century.

Common Challenges Encountered by Legacy Systems

Legacy systems are quite like old engines running in a new-age car— they are out of sync with current demands and can lead to a host of issues, from security vulnerabilities to operational inefficiencies. The decision to move to modern, updated software isn’t taken lightly, but it’s driven by the need to dodge these significant hurdles and propel a business forward into new realms of growth and innovation.

Most legacy systems and applications are anchored in past technologies, being built using the tools and platforms that, while innovative then, now fall short of current technological standards. Altogether, this discrepancy leads to compatibility issues and impedes these systems’ ability to align with today’s best practices, creating a rift between old capabilities and new requirements.

Known for their slow response times, legacy applications can significantly hamper productivity, acting as a bottleneck in otherwise streamlined operations. This sluggishness and security vulnerabilities due to outdated protective measures expose organizations to heightened cybersecurity risks. Plus, the costs of their ongoing support and upkeep tend to escalate over time, consuming a considerable chunk of IT budgets. Expanding these systems to support business growth is difficult and often requires substantial investment, making it an unsustainable option for many organizations, as scalability-related challenges compound the financial strain.

Adaptability—or the lack thereof—presents another significant challenge. Legacy applications, rigid in their design, struggle to pivot in response to changing business demands. In turn, this rigidity is further exacerbated by the reliance on legacy code, which is frequently undocumented or poorly annotated, creating substantial barriers to understanding and modification. The departure of employees who originally developed or maintained these systems can lead to knowledge silos, making it incredibly challenging for their successors to make necessary adjustments or improvements.

Modernizing Legacy Systems: When to Start?

Modernizing your legacy systems hinges on both business and technical factors. From a business perspective, the focus is on whether the application fits new goals, its value to the company, and whether it can quickly adapt to changes.

On the technical side, considerations include the maintenance cost, the complexity of updating the application, and any security or compliance issues it might pose.

Assessing the Current Technological Stack

Assess your organization’s current technology and how it aligns with your business goals, looking at what you have, what you need, and how to bridge the gap. It’s important to think about the technology itself and consider budget, competition, and whether you need outside experts to help.

Often, organizations try to rely solely on their internal teams, which might not have all the necessary skills for such a complex task.

Choosing the right modernization strategy depends on understanding your current system’s state, your budget, and what you want to achieve. Goals might include cutting costs, boosting efficiency, enhancing agility to respond to market changes, improving security, or ensuring compliance with regulations.

Want to learn more? Book a meeting with us today!

Developing Your Modernization Roadmap

Modernizing your legacy systems requires a well-thought-out roadmap, essentially a strategic guide for smoothly transitioning away from legacy systems. This roadmap is your playbook, detailing:

  • Prioritization: Start by figuring out which legacy systems need to go first. Look at how much they cost to maintain, how they affect your daily operations, and whether they align with where your business is headed.
  • Choosing the New Technology: Next, you must decide on the new tech to replace the old. This step is about scouting for the latest and greatest technology that fits your current needs and is scalable for future growth. Think of it as shopping for a new car that’s shiny but also reliable and efficient.
  • Setting a Timeline: Modernization isn’t something you can rush through. Creating a phased timeline that reflects the complexity of upgrading each system and the breadth of the entire project is critical. It’s about being realistic with how long each step will take, avoiding the pitfall of underestimating the time needed for a thorough transition.
  • Allocating Resources: Determine the personnel, budget, and technology needed to roll out your modernization plan. It’s a balancing act of ensuring you have enough hands on deck, the financial backing, and the right tools for the job.

Choosing the Technological Approach

There is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to modernizing your legacy systems, as the right strategy for your organization hinges on a blend of factors unique to your situation. Usually, these include the current condition of the application you’re working with, the budget you have to play with, and what you hope to achieve.

Each option out there, from simple tweaks to complete overhauls, offers a different route to revitalizing your legacy systems in line with your specific needs and goals:

  • Rehosting (Lift & Shift) involves transferring legacy applications to a modern infrastructure without substantial code modifications. While this method can quickly cut infrastructure expenses, it often does little to enhance application functionality or performance.
  • Replatforming (Lift & Reshape) requires minor code tweaks to adapt and optimize the legacy application for a new environment. This strategy strikes a balance, offering cost savings while also delivering modest improvements in system performance and capabilities.
  • Refactoring (Re-architecting) is a more in-depth approach, entailing significant alterations to the application’s underlying architecture to meet modern standards. Though it demands considerable resources, refactoring can dramatically enhance functionality, making systems more flexible and future-proof.
  • Retirement & Replacement might be necessary when legacy systems are beyond practical updates. In such instances, adopting a modern off-the-shelf software solution or developing a custom application tailored to specific organizational needs can be the most effective route. Although this option often represents a significant investment, it can also yield substantial long-term efficiency, scalability, and competitiveness benefits.
Table outlining modernization approaches for different types of applications and integration of new technologies, including cloud migration, adopting containerization, and leveraging AI for data analysis.

Building Your Team

When modernizing your legacy systems, it’s essential to assemble a cross-functional team that includes IT pros, operations leaders, and department heads. If chosen correctly, this team will ensure that your modernization strategy is considered from all angles and incorporates a variety of insights and expertise. To get everyone on the same page and keep resistance to change at a minimum, involve team members at different levels, fostering a sense of ownership and collaboration.

Setting Documentation Standards

Equally important is establishing clear coding standards and internal processes right from the start. This isn’t just about making code clean and maintainable; it’s about ensuring your systems are built on a solid foundation that’s easy to understand, extend, and upkeep as your business evolves.

Monitor, Improve & Adapt the New System

Optimization is an ongoing process driven by feedback from end-users and stakeholders for fine-tuning the application, ensuring it addresses current requirements and is poised to adapt to future demands. As a whole, the cycle of testing, observing, and optimizing ensures that the modernized system remains robust, efficient, and aligned with evolving business objectives.

Modernizing Legacy Systems with KDG

Over time, any type of system tends to become outdated since businesses are always changing due to factors such as the economy, new legislation, market circumstances, management, or even simple reorganizations. As a domino effect, developments like these call for ongoing innovation in IT systems for businesses to maintain a competitive edge by learning the ins and outs of legacy systems and figuring out how to modernize them.

Ready to navigate the complexities of modernizing your legacy systems? At KDG, our team of seasoned business process consultants and skilled developers is equipped to guide you through each step of your modernization journey. We understand the challenges you face and have the expertise to craft solutions that not only meet your current needs but also prepare you for future growth.

Don’t let outdated systems hold your business back. Reach out to KDG today, and let us help you transform your IT landscape with cutting-edge solutions that enhance efficiency, security, and scalability. Whether it’s rehosting, replatforming, refactoring, or a complete system overhaul, we’re here to ensure your transition is smooth and successful.

Steve Solt headshot

Rob is a Senior Developer at KDG. For over half a decade, he has focused his time on highly complex web and mobile applications in cloud environments, from small, single-page websites for local businesses to complex custom applications for large medical firms. His ability to quickly learn all types of code and platforms has made him one of KDG’s most diverse programmers who has the skills, the understanding, and the patience to accomplish whatever a business needs to succeed.

Want to learn more? Book a meeting with us today!

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