The routes to digital transformation are countless and each enterprise’s plan is based on its specific strategic priorities. Many organizations take a “rip and replace” approach and choose to start building new systems from the ground up. However, in many instances, this shouldn’t be the case. Completely scrapping legacy technology and starting over could be an unnecessarily long, risky, and costly process. Working on developing a hybrid eco-system where legacy applications are modernized and allowed to co-exist with modern ones in a fully integrated and optimized environment is a more efficient approach to digital transformation. We delve into why this is the case in more detail in this article.
Digital Transformation Is a Journey
Regardless of geographic location or sector, digital transformation is high on the list of every corporation’s top priorities. A common mistake enterprises tend to make, however, is approaching it as a one-off project they need to finish by a set deadline. If they want to succeed in their digital transformation efforts, instead, they need to see it as a process that shouldn’t end. Digital transformation is a journey, not a destination and even when maturity across all dimensions is achieved, enterprises will need to adopt a mindset that involves continuous revisions and rapid response to change.
Today’s modern technology will be tomorrow’s legacy technology. Thus, adopting a digital transformation strategy that is flexible and frequently revisited is paramount for enterprises that value the benefits of keeping up with the speed of technology.
What are Legacy Applications and Systems?
Any application that is built with an older technology stack but is used for daily operations can be considered a legacy application or system. This includes:
- Ancient applications running on mainframe computers
- Some coding languages like COBOL, Fortran, C, and C++
- Older operating systems like MS-DOS, Windows 3.1, or XP
- Hardware like Apple IIGS machines or Intel 286 computers
- Some applications that are built on technologies with limited life cycles and haven’t been updated in a long time
They tend to have negative connotations, based on underlying assumptions that using outdated legacy systems and software can create serious problems for businesses, such as security and operational risks, poor customer experience, and increasing technical debt, and could eventually constrain the business from competing effectively.
However, completely getting rid of legacy technology doesn’t solve anything, as the enterprise will then need to embark on a lengthy process of introducing brand-new systems and software which can majorly disrupt business operations if not done correctly.
Benefits of Legacy Applications and Systems Modernization
Integration issues can arise when legacy applications and systems become incompatible with modern technologies as they need to be altered or can no longer be kept up to date. In many instances, this begins to hinder innovation and potentially, data security too. To ensure system functionality, which includes application scalability, platform flexibility, robust security, and cross-platform compatibility, enterprises need to embrace legacy systems modernization.
Additional technical benefits include:
- Straightforward and concise API integration with new software and third-party tools
- Modernization which keeps applications secure from changing security threats
- Stronger and improved application performance security mitigation and more reliable processes
- Adoption of optimized operating models and frameworks, such as DevOps
Technology changes very quickly and embracing legacy applications and systems modernization can guarantee an optimized hybrid eco-system where old and new technologies can co-exist in harmony.
The Future Is Interoperability
Interoperability – or blending the old and new tech in one eco-system – is agreed to be the way forward. In most cases, legacy applications contain highly valuable but undocumented features which contain a deep understanding of the enterprise’s unique workflows and specific environment that has been built for years. Despite the challenges around integrating them, these legacy applications could be of critical importance to the business. The expectation that you can completely remove or replace legacy technology once and for all is unrealistic.
Thus, finding the most suitable solutions that will allow legacy applications to holistically co-exist with modern applications in a fully integrated way is the digital transformation approach that progressive organizations need to consider. Ultimately, a carefully planned legacy application modernization strategy allows you to use contemporary technology, automate bottom-line activities, decrease manual errors, and gain a competitive edge.
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