Modernization is a bright idea for legacy software
How do you know it’s time to modernize a legacy application?
Diminished business outcomes
The truest driver for strategic capital expenditures is a company asset that doesn’t help the organization achieve its strategic outcomes. In relation to legacy custom software this can take the form of sluggish performance, buggy systems or poor user experiences. Legacy systems that are not adaptable to current business needs are prime targets for modernization.
Out of control technical debt
Ward Cunningham, hugely influential computer scientist, is generally credited with coining the term “technical debt”. Likened to going into financial debt – a little debt speeds development but danger occurs when the debt is not repaid. Legacy systems in need of modernization can easily tip into budgets dominated by technical debt “interest payments”.
Technical debt smells
The following are several classic signs of legacy software suffering from a high level of technical debt:
Simple Functional Changes or Additions Take a Long TimeYou have determined that you need to add two simple fields to your application; your development team greets you with pained looks and/or racks several days of work to make the change.
Bug Fixes Take a Long TimeA problem comes in from the field that your application is rendering a key page in poor form on smartphones. The bug takes three days, senior dev staff is called in and extensive late hours are put in.
Code Changes for Small Additions Frequently Lead to BugsDuring the addition of the “two simple fields”, three reports break and the data update feature breaks. Seemingly unrelated features regress to broken states for no apparent reason.
Application Operates Slower Than It Used ToYou use your app for day-to-day work and the slowdown from how it worked a year ago is palpable. Workarounds mount and inefficient legacy code is dominating the application, bringing it to a crawl.
Direct & tangible benefits of modernized software
Just as the story of how a legacy system came to be in need of modernization is varied, the specific benefits to expect from each engagement will differ. However, here are a few things you can expect.
Application users will be more effective in their use of the application and take advantage of the added modern design and UI features
Quicker overall responsiveness and less time for long-running tasks will enable users to get their jobs done quicker
A modern responsive web design will make your application functional on desktops, phones and tablets – meeting your users where they live
With a controllable level of technical debt, your modernized application will become more predictable in operation, issue fewer alerts and be easier to work on
Reduced technical debt will also make application developers more able to move in the directions you need to take the application – quickly and smoothly
Tricks of the modernization trade
Bringing a large enterprise system is definitely not for the feint of heart; the following are some principles MercuryWorks follows:
Slow and Steady Wins the RaceWhen it comes to software, we recommend that you leave the Big Bang to science class. A paced and concerted effort over time wins the day here.
Keep What You CanEvery legacy system is different but there is often one tier that can be kept and evolved – most frequently it is the data tier but from time to time more is possible.
Automate Tests BEFORE Making ChangesLegacy systems and sparse test automation go hand-in-hand; up unit and integration tests so you know when you break something during modernization.
Up the UI GameAdded sophistication in front end frameworks has been notable over the last five+ years. Legacy systems are typically lacking in this area: get after it.