Agility has become a top business priority to meet fluctuating customer demands, keep pace with market trends, comply with onerous regulations, and stay ahead of competitors. Every organization wants to have modern and innovative applications, to leverage the cloud environment, and to independently update services and new features in hours, and not months. With deployment reaching top speed, user expectations from service availability has also increased substantially. Businesses need to build solutions that can help them stay competitive; at the same time, they also can’t afford to waste time, effort and money on updating their legacy products.
Despite the developments in cutting-edge technology, a large majority of IT systems run on legacy platforms. According to a report by Data Economy, 41% of organizations believe that critical data is trapped in legacy systems which result in a loss of $140 billion. The business value of legacy products – developed over the years – weakens with constant technological change. Sooner or later, legacy products that were created eons ago have to give way to modernization – not just to keep pace with the modern world but also to ensure they meet the business and security demands of today, and tomorrow. If your business is built around such a legacy product, surely revamping or rewriting it has crossed your mind.
Although modernizing these products while keeping their functionality intactis a necessity, here’s a list of the top challenges you will likely face when rewriting your legacy products:
- Making sense of old code
One of the biggest challenges of rewriting legacy products is making sense of old code. Many legacy products have been built using obsoletelanguages, architectures,and infrastructures– knowledge or understanding of which today’s developers just do not have, especially in the absence of any kind of documentation. Since they are hardwired by rigid, predefined process flows, it makes integration with modern business applications torturous and impossible to comprehend. To rewrite these products, developers need to first translate legacy code into a developer-friendly language and then move on to rewriting old code in manageable bits to support modern business requirements.
- 2. Modifying workflows
Beyond code change, workflow changes become a major challenge for your customers. This is especially true for users who have been using legacy products for years, and have developed their own shortcuts and processes in and around the product. Hence, it is advisable to have a user-centric approach; start byexplaining the practical advantages of the new version, move on to taking feedback from the user community and then modify the workflow and add few features. This will help drive up acceptance and usage.
- 3. Factoring in unknown dependencies
Legacy products are often altered and revised to meet the growing demands of businesses. The chance that theymay still be in use by other systems or users is extremely high. Rewriting such products without factoring insuch dependencies can negatively impact the outcome. One way to discover these unknown dependencies is to turn down resources only temporarily and lookfor any alerts and issues that appear as a result.
One way you can move ahead is by designing simple solutions around compatibility with the existing infrastructure; you can also prioritize components based on the ease of rewrite, risks and so on and take necessary steps to ensure a seamless user experience through the transition.
- Allocating sufficient resources
In addition to finding systems or users that are dependent on legacy hardware, allocating sufficient resources to ensure the rewrite process is smooth and seamless is equally important. For legacy products to deliver real value in a highly digital world, rewriting makes total business sense, but it also costs substantial time, effort and money. One way to keep your costs down is by investing in modern, open source technology; such investment can not only maximize the capability of legacy products but also ensure future extensibility and portability. That said, this is not a simple choice as this introduces its own dependencies -on the community for support for eg.
- Justifying ROI
Irrespective of the benefits you achieve by rewriting your legacy products, in the end, it all comes down to cost– theopportunity cost of maintaining legacy productsvs. the actual cost of rewriting products with modern architectures and technology. Since the hardest part is accurately assessing the ROI, most organizations underestimate the benefits of modernization. Do a cost-benefit analysis: if you think adding new features and capabilities can substantially boost business outcomes while simultaneously enhancing the user experience – which mostly will be the case – it makes complete sense to rewrite your legacy products and be equipped to survive and thrive in a technologically competitive world.
Ensure a smooth transition
Modernizing legacy products becomes a necessity as it can provide afunctionally that’s necessary for users today. But the higher risk of failure associated with the transition in addition to the time and cost involved pose a significant deterrent to the decision to rewrite legacy products. Although there are several challenges when rewriting your legacy products, breaking down the project into small manageable pieces, taking feedback from users, using modern, open source technologies, prioritizing components and carrying out a cost-benefit analysis can ensure in a smooth and seamless transition. That, and working with folks like TechBulls who specialize in helping product development organizations create functional, effective, and impactful version 2.0 (and beyond)!