Organizations satisfied with their current application functionality but worried about license fees or shortcomings in their current productivity tools, integration capabilities, or application look and feel may find that a conversion to newer relational technology will resolve many issues and pave the road for the future.
“Conversion” has historically been used as another term for “rewrite.” This may or may not be correct for a specific project. If the project’s purpose is to change the database, application language or both, but not to materially change application functionality, then the project is truly a conversion. If the project’s purpose is to change the application functionality, database, or language, then the project might better be labeled a rewrite.
Manual conversion projects to replace legacy technologies have been undertaken for many years. These projects aren’t intended to provide additional functionality to users, but are intended to solve the underlying technology issues associated with non-relational processing. Some organizations have successfully carried out conversion projects to completely remove their legacy databases and applications. Many organizations have used manual conversions to move some of their smaller or less complex applications and databases to newer technology.
Manual conversions aren’t easy or always appealing because:
It’s often difficult (or impossible) to estimate the time and cost requirements.
They are generally time-consuming and labor-intensive.
The assigned technical team must be knowledgeable in both the old and new technology to ensure that the same functionality is carried forward.
The results are often unpredictable because every line of code is “new” and it’s difficult (or impossible) to test every aspect of the application and exercise every line of code.
Automation adds speed, uniformity, accuracy, and consistency to the conversion process. With automation, the number of technical resources, the conversion lifecycle, and the project costs are all drastically reduced. The skills of the technical team members become far less critical to success. Program logic remains intact and not opened up to human interpretation. If the conversion automation is highly advanced, then the timeframe between project conception and integrated testing should be a matter of days, not weeks, months, or years (see Figure 2).
Conversion vendors can assist with the conversion process in various ways. Some vendors provide technical teams to carry out manual conversions. Some provide technical team members and limited automated tools. Others provide highly automated conversion tools. Selecting the right vendor is important.