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Legacy Systems: How and Why Introduce Modern Techniques

  • Software development

One of the biggest challenges for companies today is to modernize legacy systems with new tools, techniques, and automation, especially since, in the digital age, enterprises from all sectors are increasingly dependent on technology and automated resources.

With customer demands, the backlog of new features, bugs, with all these day-to-day demands, is there time for the IT team to think about innovation? The truth is that organizations that don’t transform die. Therefore, finding a moment to innovate is essential to remain competitive and get ahead of the competition.

Is your company ready to embrace this new reality? Given the topic’s relevance, we prepared a post about what a legacy system is and why it is essential to renew its technologies. Follow up!

What is a legacy system?

Legacy Systems are obsolescent platforms that have been in use within a company for many years. They are developed to have a long useful life, organized in a layered model (socio-technical system).

In other words, we can say that, due to many advances in technology, this infrastructure no longer fits the dynamics of the organization, like the software developed several decades ago.

According to author and systems engineer at the Walt Disney Company, Michael C. Feathers, in his book “Working effectively with legacy code,” legacy code is code without automated tests.

And he completes his reasoning by stating that the main challenges of legacy processes are: technical debt and manual work. They rely excessively on human intervention and fall short in their settings.

What are the disadvantages?

Although companies keep old systems for reliability, the maintenance of outdated software generates higher costs for the company. It brings many bugs, especially when implementing improvements in this process.

Today, the world is nourished by real-time information that enables quick and accurate decisions. In a company’s internal environment, this approach is crucial for it to survive and position itself among the best players in the market.

Outdated systems make room for manual processes, which are always subject to human error and can cause problems that would be easily avoided through automation.

In addition, it is worth taking more excellent care regarding the vulnerability of legacy systems on data storage, which makes the reliability argument used by many companies fall.

More than ever, it is essential to make room to rethink the use of encryption of this data by updating security patches. From a less pragmatic point of view, it is also up to companies to seek innovative mechanisms to motivate their employees.

Developers are often frustrated as the knowledge of a legacy system is limited to just a few people, and the learning process is slow. Changes are based on what is possible to accomplish and not on the purpose of what is best for the company.

What are the main features?

Contrary to what many may imagine, legacy systems are not just synonymous with slowness. Next, check out the main signs that your business is operating an outdated model.

Outdated software

The first indicator of legacy systems is that their developers fail to create updates. In addition to fixing bugs from previous versions, software upgrades play a crucial role in increasing security mechanisms against cyber threats.

Cybercrime is getting more and more sophisticated. Therefore, maintaining a system that does not undergo updates leaves the corporate system fully exposed to intrusion.

As a result, this can harm the company’s routine due to leaking its data and tarnishing its image of credibility in the market.

Obsolete technology

One of the hallmarks of legacy systems is that they are obsolete. But watch out! This does not necessarily mean that the software is old, but it uses outdated technologies.

The tool can, for example, have a programming language or protocols that are no longer used or even deprecated databases and file formats.

We usually have an old hardware structure with costly mainframe components. They fail to align with new technology guidelines like scalability and integration.

There comes a time when the gaps caused by legacy systems can no longer be filled without changing technology. They start to interfere internally and in the customer experience.

Lack of mobility

In the digital age, a strong trend in current software is to have a version for mobile devices — this makes it easier to control activities in real-time — as managers and employees can access information even when outside the company.

And as in legacy systems, everything is concentrated on computers; without communicating with different types of applications, mobility is unfeasible.

Lack of trained employees

Another common problem with legacy systems is that their resources are limited to a few contributors. So, if this professional needs to leave the company or stop working there, it will be tough for other people to learn to deal with and have dominion over him. Therefore, it is a demand that involves time and money.

Lack of scalability

In the modern corporate world, scalability is a crucial capability for software. As the company grows, it is necessary to expand its systems to provide the support needed for business operations.

However, legacy systems were not developed from this perspective. So, by insisting on outdated models at a given time, they will no longer meet the company’s operating dynamics.

It will not be able, for example, to serve a more extensive customer base with the same quality standard. Until a moment of total collapse comes.

Lack of support

Another difficulty when dealing with legacy systems is that, over time, there is a risk that a manufacturer will stop offering technical support due to numerous factors. Thus, if the organization wants to maintain the quality and efficiency of internal operations, more drastic changes in the tools used will be necessary.

The tip, in this case, is to act preventively: follow all IT trends and invest in the modernization of your technology park before it becomes a problem.

Incompatibility with modern systems

There is no way to talk about the features of legacy systems without mentioning their incompatibility with modern software. Today, one of the main requirements of new software and other corporate technologies is that they can be easily integrated with other tools.

Therefore, a system of low compatibility makes the strategies of those seeking more agility and operational excellence completely unfeasible. If you have a system that does not interact with different resources, its entire structure is stagnant, with no possibility of improvement.

Software hosted on physical servers.

The dependence on physical servers and hardware devices infrastructure represents a great indication of legacy systems when it comes to process automation.

Because it is considerably cheaper, safer, and promotes agility to the routine of a business, cloud computing has been dominating the market for management software and applications.

Cloud computing allows real-time operations control, adding precision and speed to decision-making.

How to know if your company has a legacy system?

There are several criteria that we can analyze to define a legacy system. Anyone in the IT area must have heard a lot about it. However, to help you in this mission, we have listed some topics to diagnose your presence, or not, in the enterprise:

  • reduced lifespan due to obsolete and unsupported technologies;
  • Maintenance difficulties due to lack of workforce;
  • lack of documentation on system creation and rules;
  • critical systems decoupled from the business strategy.

It is worth remembering that legacy systems are not all old systems but those that no longer meet the company’s goals and do not support incremental improvements.

What are the benefits of migrating legacy systems?

The implementation of technologies must be a constant habit in companies. However, the lack of maintenance and improvements turned its resources into legacy systems. That’s what happens in most cases.

As the company updates its strategy, focus, products, and services, it is also necessary to add new functionalities and develop its applications.

But for this to be effective, adding or modifying codes are monitored to maintain control and organization for developers, whether they are current or next to join the project.

A phrase often cited by users of legacy systems is: “for every bug fixed, two new problems are introduced.”

As with any construction, maintenance of the work is essential, and it is no different with systems.

According to Professor Thomas Pigoski, the cost of maintaining a legacy system has grown from 40% in the 1970s to 90% today.

Much has been said about digital transformation, and most of the time, it starts with the modernization of the company’s core system. However, countless IT leaders still bet on the stability and maintenance of legacy systems without realizing the long-term benefits that new technologies can bring to their companies.

One of the solutions indicated in different scenarios in the migration of legacy systems is the Liferay platform which offers customized solutions for other sectors.

How do we modernize legacy systems?

Once the characteristics of legacy systems are understood, another big question also arises: how to implement this transformation without interrupting the company’s operations?

Adopting new technologies is a natural reflection of optimizing processes, gaining productivity, and reducing costs. At these points, new players emerge with disruptive and innovative solutions.

A successful legacy software upgrade takes much more than choosing the right tool. It depends on good process mapping and strategic planning. The task is not simple, and it is closely linked to data migration.

Automated tests, modularization, design architecture, training and recycling, and agile team and project management practices are indispensable prerequisites in any modernization initiative, either in-house or through outsourcing.

Some companies choose to do this work internally, with a specific team for these demands that do not have interference from similar projects.

This team needs to be prepared for innovation and create tools and automation that add value to the strategic plan.

An alternative is to outsource software development or hire a package of integrated solutions since it demands a lot of planning and involvement from IT, defocusing them from their main activities.

In any case, the idea is to find solutions that preserve old operations and, at the same time, revitalize processes, that is, make a transition with the least possible losses.

Updating systems is also an opportunity to identify obsolete data — incomplete, duplicated — that does not provide good insights for managers and teams.

For all the above, we can conclude that legacy systems are a significant challenge in companies’ routines and go far beyond the IT area. As technologies advance, it is necessary to guarantee fluidity and security to corporate operations, especially for their survival and competitiveness in the market. Therefore, evaluate the most sustainable path and put this substitution into practice as soon as possible.

Did you see how legacy systems are an obstacle to your company’s excellent performance? So, what are you waiting for to get in touch with Objective and learn about the best technology migration solutions?

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