In the business dimension, modernized systems offer:
- Improved agility and functionality to meet current and future needs
- Better enablement for compliance with new regulations.
Resource-wise, modernized systems are known to have:
- Reduced support and maintenance personnel requirements
- Increased availability of skills and trained professionals.
Finally, in the cost dimension, these systems feature:
- Reduced Total Cost of Ownership (TCO), complemented by reduced license and maintenance costs
- Lowered system management costs.
Legacy Modernization Options
Practical experience shows that in the context of budget constraints, not all legacy systems need be subjected to modernization initiatives. The uniqueness of legacy modernization is its business functionality and the quality and flexibility of its underlying legacy code. Traditionally, systems with truly unique business functionality offer the biggest competitive advantage to the enterprise. Such systems also tend to be strategic to ongoing enterprise activities. When based on solid technical architecture and high-quality code, such systems should be protected and nurtured. However, legacy modernization is a must when such mission-critical systems are built on an antiquated, rigid technical architecture and their underlying code lacks in quality and structure.
Additionally, in certain circumstances (such as high software or hardware platform license fee costs), even legacy systems that feature standard business functionality with no competitive advantage to the enterprise can be subjected to legacy modernization initiatives and moved to a more economical hardware/software platform.
Once an application has been qualified and approved for a legacy modernization project, there’s a full spectrum of legacy modernization options available to modern IT organizations. IT executives need to properly quantify the economical benefits and measure projected ROIs associated with each option.
From simple and affordable to complex and expensive, these options are:
- Better user interface
- Enhanced application connectivity
- Improved architecture (platform)
- Database or application migration
- Manual application rewrite.
Figure 1 represents a visual mapping of legacy modernization options along cost/complexity dimensions of the ROI value line, with User Interface (UI) at the left bottom part of the value line and application rewrite all the way at the top of the same value line. Experience shows that the least expensive UI upgrades offer only tactical solutions to an organization’s modernization needs and most such projects have limited business benefits. At the other end of the spectrum is application rewrite, which usually proves to be too complex and costly to implement.
Commonly held opinion suggests that a combination of modernizing application architecture (re-platform) and migrating a database or application to a new technology solution offer the best value by balancing cost and complexity measurements. Often, a positive ROI can be achieved in 24 months when such projects are conducted by experienced service organizations and founded on an advanced automation toolset, with a replicable, well-defined methodology.
The economic imperative of legacy modernization is real and offers true value to IT organizations seeking to balance near-term budget cost reductions with building a long-term foundation for future enterprise growth and business expansion. Leveraging the residual value of legacy systems toward building modern application portfolios is the key consideration behind the legacy dilemma. A powerful combination of business drivers and legacy pains propels legacy modernization initiatives to the top of IT priorities. IT executives need to review the multitude of available management alternatives with regard to these legacy modernization initiatives and get a full measure of how these alternatives appear along the ROI value line. ME