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Legacy Software Modernization: What It Is and Why You Should Care

Simply put, legacy software modernization is the process in which software engineers convert, rewrite, or port an old system into newer platforms. This can mean many things, from changing the base programming language to adopting a whole new architecture. The goal of doing that is fairly simple: to enjoy the benefits of using more recent technologies. Here are all the things you need to know.
Daniel Zacharias

Eugenio de Tomaso

September 28, 2022

Despite the fact that most companies are rapidly embracing cutting-edge technologies, there are still multiple examples of industries using legacy systems. Lots of manufacturing, retail, and even IT companies still rely on old software. In fact, many of them don’t feel the need to upgrade or update their systems simply because they understand that those old platforms and tools are enough for their operations.

By doing that, they are obviously ignoring the well-known suggestion that people and companies should always use the latest technology available. Naturally, they have all the right to do so. Still, by doing that, they put themselves in a position where they’ll see a decreased security level, a poorer user experience, and even an impossibility to integrate those legacy systems into a newer infrastructure. 

In that light, the concept of legacy software modernization becomes extremely important. But what is it? And why should you care about it? Here are all the things you need to know. 

What is legacy software modernization?

Simply put, legacy software modernization is the process in which software engineers convert, rewrite, or port an old system into newer platforms. This can mean many things, from changing the base programming language to adopting a whole new architecture. The goal of doing that is fairly simple: to enjoy the benefits of using more recent technologies.

Those benefits include:

Improved performance

Newer programming languages, architectures, libraries, and protocols presumably take better advantage of more recent hardware, offering a stabler, faster, and better overall performance of modernized software compared to legacy systems. 

Increased security

Digital security is an ever-evolving practice always trying new methods to prevent increasingly complex cybersecurity threats. That’s why you need to modernize older systems: they have outdated programming practices that cyberthreats can easily target and exploit. 

Heightened integrability and scalability

Integrating and scaling older systems is an extremely difficult task. That’s because old languages, libraries, and protocols often don’t get along with newer technologies. Thus, modernizing software helps you grow and connect those solutions to other solutions more easily. 

Better user experience

The focus on UX is a relatively recent practice, so it stands to reason that older systems don’t offer the best experience. By modernizing your legacy solutions, you’d be streamlining their interfaces, making them more satisfying to use. 

Those benefits alone should convince you that modernizing your legacy systems is the way to go. However, let me drive the point home by describing some of the pros and cons of legacy software modernization. 

Pros of legacy software modernization

The old system is prone to crashes.

Remember the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic? In July 2020, 31.3 million people couldn’t complete their daily business tasks because their employers closed or lost their business due to the pandemic. Consequently, state unemployment websites kept crashing due to the sudden massive demand for unemployment benefits.

The above is just a recent example of how an old system can’t respond to an increase in demand, which is often inevitable. By modernizing those systems, businesses can better respond to the users’ needs without compromising their experience with the platforms. 

Old legacy systems require more work.

As it happens with virtually all software, old systems also need adjustments and fine-tuning from time to time to ensure their proper performance. However, those old solutions are often written in older programming languages or have overtly complex architectures that make those adjustments more difficult than they need to be. Can you imagine maintaining a system written in Lisp?

To avoid that, you can modernize your systems using newer technologies and resources that make it easier to adjust anything you require. Doing that will help you find the engineering talent to maintain and support the system while making the entire process more efficient and less time-consuming. 

Legacy modernization attracts new clients.

Generation Z is the next money-making and money-spending generation. As the first digital generation, you can expect them to have no patience for slow, buggy, or flawed systems, let alone features and tools that aren’t predictable. They want everything to run smoothly without exception, but that’s something they most likely won’t find in older systems.

The solution, again, is to modernize that solution to improve it in all the crucial aspects modern users value: better UX, attractive UI, fast performance, robust security, and ease of use. 

Old legacy systems waste money.

The funds you invest in creating or buying the latest software are nothing compared to the amount you would spend to maintain the old software. That’s because everything involved with using a legacy system can be more pricey, from getting highly specialized engineers that know how to handle outdated technologies to the time it takes them to actually do the work. 

Even if you can spare the funds, sticking to older systems doesn’t make sense, as you might be losing improvement opportunities all across the board because you don’t want to ditch that legacy solution. 

Data analytics and data violation

Customer data is one of the most precious assets for any business. First, knowing your clients inside out gives you a competitive edge. Understanding your consumers’ needs helps provide the best, most profitable end product while also giving you insights into new business opportunities. 

In addition, data protection is vital for any business. Data leaks can ruin a company’s reputation in a second. A new system is more up-to-date with the latest online security tools and data protection. What’s more, depending on your industry, you’ll need to modernize the systems to comply with regulatory requirements that may apply to you. 

Cons of legacy software modernization

Is there a situation where software modernization isn’t the way to go? There aren’t too many, to tell you the truth. But there are certain circumstances where businesses might choose to keep their legacy systems (at their own risk). 

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

More often than not, there are no guarantees that the new system will be much better than the old one. The new software is supposed to save you time and money, but it may as well waste it if the end product is nothing but the old system with a few non-essential new features.

Unless you define the plan for the new software in detail, you may end up with a new version of the same software with few or no advantages. 

New software requires more funds.

And time, too. Building software from scratch sounds wonderful until you calculate how much time and work you have to invest. If you are making one on your own, you must dedicate a whole expert team to this goal. More often than not, though, that very same team is already involved in the maintenance of the existing software and is already busy. Sometimes figuring out how to add a feature or two is everything you need for the next business year. 

Legacy modernization is a continuous process.

Let’s face it — legacy modernization is a never-ending process. Even if you purchase the latest software version, you’ll have to focus on its maintenance and upgrading to save time and money. 

When you understand that legacy modernization is inevitable, you will constantly be on your toes, ensuring that the “old” system meets the new requirements. Also, this is another reason for inspiring your team to continually think about future goals and challenges.

In conclusion

As a general rule, legacy system modernization is always the best path forward. Even if you don’t see the improvement in user experience, features, and performance, newer software systems always come with increased security, a must for today’s business landscape.

Of course, you can always take a different approach and develop (or purchase) an entirely new system to take full advantage of what newer technologies can offer. Choosing one or the other will depend mostly on your business goals, your available resources, and your development timeline. One thing’s for sure, though: if you stick to your old systems, you’ll have a lousy time sooner or later. Why risk that?

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