As data becomes an increasingly important strategic asset, enterprises are turning to modernize legacy applications so that valuable data is not stored in legacy databases. They see opportunities to extract insights from their data, cut costs, and gain a competitive advantage, but they know they must first move beyond their legacy applications.
What is Legacy Application Modernization?
Legacy Application Modernization is transforming legacy IT systems, applications, and processes to eliminate data silos and put an organization on a data empowerment path.
Digital transformation is an organization’s broader effort to improve efficiency, innovate, and drive growth. As part of the digital transformation, the strategy for upgrading legacy applications occupies the technological branch of the triad “people-processes-technologies.” You assess the needs of your business, decide what to upgrade first, draw up a plan and implement it.
Below we describe eight steps for creating a legacy application upgrade strategy. Use them as a framework for developing your own business case and plan.
Step One to modernize legacy applications: Identify Benefits and Create a Business Case
Any such far-reaching initiative deserves commercial justification. When upgrading legacy applications, the starting point for the business case is to evaluate current applications and dependent systems and then prioritize them according to benefits, costs, and risks. In most companies, the business case is based on some combination of the following factors:
Business Case Driver #1 – Unleashing the value of data in legacy applications
Business Case Driver #2 – Hardening Security
Business Case Driver #3 – Compliance
Business Case Driver #4 – Protecting Your Reputation
In extra to the economic dangers associated with non-compliance, there is potential damage to your reputation and brand.
Step Two – Inventory Data and Mapping to Business Processes
Once the business plan has been approved and the direction determined, the next step is to inventory all IT assets, including applications, systems, business processes, links, and databases.
Together with the business community and the IT community, you will take inventory to answer several essential questions:
· Where is our data?
· Where are our systems and infrastructure?
· What applications do we support?
· What is the connection between our applications?
Of these, we believe that #1 has the least margin for error. It’sIt’s always essential to know where your data resides in an organization. You can know where your applications are and be aware of all the complex interdependencies between them. But most organizations store a certain amount of “dark data” without knowing precisely what it is, where it is, or who has access to it. Dark data often comes from the push for big data, where organizations consume all the data they can and store it in data warehouses and data lakes.
Inventory – manual or automated
It all starts with inventory; the more you can automate the inventory process, the better. Manual inventory methods rely on institutional knowledge stored in people’speople’s heads. If these people leave the company, you will be left with servers and databases that no one can access, which are likely to be both valuable and outdated. Deciding what to do with them becomes a workaround on the way to your inventory.
Modernize or not?
Taking inventory helps you determine which applications need to be upgraded. But in some cases, you may choose not to upgrade a legacy application, leaving the application as is instead.
Step three. Consider options modernize legacy applications strategy
At this point, the business turns to the enterprise architecture team and says, “We want to modernize these applications. Can you find a better way to do this?” The team then makes decisions on issues such as migrating to the cloud, running applications on a new platform and rewriting them.
Gartner identified seven options for upgrading legacy applications and ranked them based on ease of implementation. A more straightforward analysis would be to choose one of the following standard cost-adjusted options:
· Re-platform – change the technology stack and leave the application as it is.
· Re-architecture – rebuild the application and rebuild the technology stack, which can be very expensive and time-consuming.
· Refactoring – redesign, and optimization of the application if the technology stack has already been upgraded.
Step Four – Define the Architecture
Then, given the chosen strategy, the team determines the most appropriate architecture at three primary levels: applications, databases, and platforms/servers.
Do you want the platform/server to be in your data center for more control or in the cloud to lower your capital costs (CapEx) and increase your operating expenses (OpEx)?
If the application is already performing well, would you choose a less expensive open-source database such as MySQL or Postgres? It will entail reconfiguring the application to work with the new database.
Do you want to move the application and the database to the cloud, not to your data center data dumps? It entails high costs in the short term, with fewer IT staff in the long term.
Are you choosing a hybrid cloud that combines public cloud services with existing data center resources? Or do you distribute your assets among multiple cloud providers?
While these decisions are within the purview of the enterprise architect, they also have business implications. It is because another element of legacy application modernization is to increase business value—the value of your company’s unique, innovative applications and services and the value of your company’s data.
Step five – choose a team to implement the strategy
The staff hierarchy for most legacy application upgrade projects is as follows:
Senior executives—chief information officer (CIO), chief technology officer (CTO), chief information security officer (CISO), and chief security officer (CSO)—manage the initiative from above. They decide which people will be engaged in modernization.
The enterprise architecture group reports to them.
IT teams and business groups act as contacts for their respective communities.
Step Six – Determining Success Metrics
The most useful method to measure the success of upgrading your legacy application is to choose metrics based on your initial motivation.
A recent Rackspace report shows several of the most desirable outcomes of legacy application revamps, including the top five in descending order of prevalence:
· Improved customer satisfaction (54%)
· Improving employee efficiency and satisfaction (47%)
· Leverage data-driven insights to improve customer experiences (40%)
· Strategy for entering new markets (37%)
· Security improvements to reduce operational risk (35%)
Success rates are tied to the data inventory in the second step. The better you understand what data you have, the more likely you can extract valuable insights from it to improve the results of legacy application upgrades.
Step seven. Automate implementation
As described in step 4, legacy application modernization aims to add value to a business that requires automation.
Step Eight – Control and Optimize
The benefits of upgrading legacy applications do not always appear automatically. And they are not always immediately apparent. So, your strategy should include monitoring and optimization at the end of the project. Weigh these factors as you explore the landscape of available tools:
Consider how you can monitor the performance of your redesigned application to ensure it meets business needs and stays within budget.
Using multiple monitoring tools will be cumbersome with fewer trained staff and a growing variety of platform types. Use as few tools as possible – preferably one.
Implement a robust data management and data protection.
Improve data literacy by ensuring that data consumers in both business and IT can find, understand and use osm data confusingly, given their different points of view.
The primary goal to modernize legacy applications is to give the business and the IT department a better understanding of the enterprise data landscape.
Modernizing legacy applications also provides fault tolerance. You want to insulate a brand new application that you’ve deployed to the cloud from unintentional, damaging changes due to a bug on the different flank of the organization.
Finally, modernizing legacy applications allows the business and IT departments to work on the same wavelength, balancing the business’s needs and the IT department’s ability to meet those needs.