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Why plans to support legacy systems are essential for keeping businesses with dated software running efficiently and securely.


Strategic Plans to Support Legacy Systems Through Modernization

Posted by Angela Davis on January 9, 2024
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Plans to support legacy systems are a concern for many businesses. Whether through supplementing or replacing the dated hardware and software at the heart of their operations, these companies are hoping to leave the ranks of those still clinging to older IT and business solutions. 

Many legacy systems are either no longer supported by the developers that created them or have numbered days of vendor support left. Not to mention, continuing to run businesses on legacy systems is costly, with increasing amounts of time and money often necessary to keep things passable. Companies can end up holding onto barely workable systems in the vain hope of not disrupting business continuity.

If you feel chained to a sinking legacy system, the solution of legacy system modernization can offer freedom. In this guide, we’ll explain how legacy systems modernization can help bring your enterprise into the 21st century. 

Seven reasons why businesses might have plans to drop support for legacy systems

Let’s begin by looking at why your business might want to drop support for its legacy systems.

1. Expensive infrastructure 

Maintaining a legacy system is a costly endeavor. Equipment is less efficient, breaks down more often, and is harder to replace or repair. Legacy IT infrastructure also comes with additional expenses when compared to modern cloud solutions.

Experts in ancient programming languages, protocols, and legacy systems are also reaching retirement age. That means it requires more time and money to recruit and hire the specialists you need. 

 As time goes on, it’s a seller's market for legacy system experts, so your infrastructure costs will only continue to rise. One example of this is the $337 million that the U.S. government spends every year to maintain just ten of its legacy systems. That’s 80% of the government’s IT budget.

Those wanting to modernize banking or support an insurance legacy transformation will be hoping to significantly reduce their costs.  

2. Lack of security updates 

Most legacy systems are already unsupported by their original developer. The best-case scenario is that you’ve been made aware of a vendor pulling support in the near future. Once the developer has abandoned an application, you’re alone in the wild. 

Hackers and malicious users are continually updating their tactics. Of course, modern applications and IT solutions are doing the same. But, without developer support, your in-house IT team will need to take on the task of keeping your systems secure and uncompromised. 

A graph showing the average total cost of a data breach.

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This is a significant concern, as security breaches can damage your public image and reputation. They can also prove expensive, with a 2021 report finding the average cost of a data breach was $4.24 million. 

3. Sparse technical support

Once a vendor pulls support, you’ll have limited options if something breaks. Customer support teams can try and fix your issue, but they won’t be well-trained on your product or possess the relevant documentation to help.

Another option is to look for assistance from consultants and freelancers. However, it can be difficult to find as well as expensive to enlist their help. 

Furthermore, if you’re trying to connect your legacy tech to a newer business tool, there may be no one capable of helping you. 

4. Strict compliance requirements

Holes in your cybersecurity can put your organization at risk and even bring your operations to a complete halt. You may be worried about sensitive business information, but it’s data belonging to your customers and clients that poses the greatest risk to business continuity. 

Your outdated legacy systems are likely to not be compliant with modern requirements, such as the EU’s Global Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

This can result in costly fines and loss of business. 

5. Discordant integration

As modern technology leaves your antiquated applications behind, you’ll discover issues and conflicts that the developers never could have predicted. One of these is likely to be the use of APIs. 

In theory, these streamline the process of connecting various business tools. However, legacy software and infrastructure are often unable to make use of native integrations. You can try and build custom integrations yourself but the capabilities of your app may still not work as intended. 

Unfortunately, discordant integrations put you at a competitive disadvantage. 

6. Slow-paced business productivity

Legacy systems typically use slower, less efficient means to accomplish the same or lesser tasks than modern alternatives. For example, your legacy tech may be unable to connect to the cloud, meaning users will have to physically connect to a local network to access data or files. 

Or your sales department might be using a customer relationship management platform but be unable to automate invoice generation. Instead, they will have to manually re-enter information into your legacy accounting system every time. 

These types of inefficiencies increase labor costs, limit your team's productivity, and can result in errors. 

7. Restricted potential for growth and innovation

It may be the case that your legacy systems “get the job done” (for now, at any rate), which is why so many companies hang onto them. But everything in business is constantly changing, from market behavior to technology trends. To keep up with changing demands, modern business tools are built with flexibility in mind.

The top three priorities for technology initiatives.

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Computer software company Flexera found that the top three priorities for technology initiatives were digital transformation, cybersecurity, and cloud/cloud migration. Legacy modernization can help you reach these objectives and avoid pitfalls that decrease business growth.

Older solutions may be unable to adapt to the needs of your business. For example, if you want to add another office, you might have to install hard-wired phone lines and expensive hardware to connect your business private branch exchange (PBX) system. 

To avoid these constraints, you’d need to modernize using a cloud-based solution. As they are compatible with microservices, deployment of new systems can take as little as hours or even minutes. 

The benefits of legacy system modernization

While the reasons for developing a business plans to strengthen legacy systems may vary, you can always expect benefits from modernization.

Offers businesses an edge in the marketplace

Markets today are incredibly agile. The organizations that use innovative solutions to quickly respond to shifting trends and unexpected disruptions will have a competitive advantage. 

Generates possibilities for growth

Modern business tools make use of AI, automation, integrations, and other features. Supporting or replacing legacy systems with these technologies increases efficiency and scalability, helping your team do more in less time and accelerating growth.

Safeguards against external and internal security breaches

Legacy systems become more vulnerable and exposed over time. With a lack of security updates, you’re leaving an open door to hackers and malicious employees. 

Modernization strengthens your cybersecurity perimeters with modern security practices for internal operations. 

Fills the space between customer needs and current practices

The chances are that your outdated systems aren’t meeting customer expectations. For example, your legacy website infrastructure may not allow for optimized browsing experiences on mobile devices. Considering that over 84% of the U.S. population are mobile internet users, this can lead to significant customer churn. 

A chart showing that 85% of business buyers and 79% of consumers say the experience a company provides is as important as its products or services.

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A Salesforce report found that roughly 80% of customers believe that user experience is as important as a product or service. 

When you modernize, you're able to provide the functionality, usability, and security clients expect, which leads to better retention rates.

Cuts software expenses and maximizes profits

Maintaining legacy systems is prohibitively expensive. Although you’ll spend more resources, you’ll gain fewer capabilities and waste time on simple business processes. Furthermore, hardware and IT costs can only increase exponentially as the business grows. 

Several government departments, such as the IRS, have been using legacy systems since the 60s and 70s and are now well-known for being slow-paced and inefficient. 

In addition to spending vast amounts on maintenance and upkeep, legacy systems come with legacy glitches that can lead to the loss of hundreds, or even thousands, of company hours. 

Modernization can increase the health of your bottom line. You can ditch old, bulky equipment and move to data centers hosted in the cloud. The resulting smaller operating footprint also means you can downsize your offices or make use of the newly freed-up space. 

Modern solutions also eliminate mundane and redundant tasks, leading to improved operational efficiency. Your team can work smarter and do more with less, helping you optimize labor costs.

Additionally, greater business agility will help you reach customers in fickle markets. 

Supercharges your data analytics for optimal outcomes 

Legacy systems were built before data analytics was really a concept. Having your team manually gather data and compile it in spreadsheets is both labor-intensive and time-consuming. Human error can also lead to incorrect data, which misleads management and decision-makers. 

Evolving your business systems allows you to adopt modern processes, such as connecting enterprise tools with APIs. This enables you to pull and compile big data from all areas of your business. Machine learning and analytics reporting can even help you build predictive models. 

This means you’ll be armed with greater and more accurate insights, allowing you to optimize product innovation or planning for seasonal demand. 

Seven winning approaches to make a planned modernization work

Modernization is simply moving toward greater innovation, and there’s a modernization approach to suit every organization, no matter your current legacy systems or specific business processes.

1. Encapsulate

Encapsulation is also known as the wrapper approach. It’s a good method to use if your current application is generating good results but is constrained by legacy platforms. Essentially, you wrap up your current solution by integrating it with a modern platform. 

This allows you to improve the user experience by implementing new API products. For example, connecting your app to Google Maps for seamless geolocation. 

Encapsulation is the most straightforward way to extend the life of an aging application.

2. Rehost

Lift and shift migration. 

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Also known as lift and shift, rehosting is a common modernization approach. Currently, your legacy system is most likely maintained by infrastructure that’s physically on-site. Using this method, you can migrate the application to a modern, virtual environment, usually a cloud-hosting solution. 

In this case, the software makes use of virtual and container-based resources to continue operating as expected. The difference is that you have all the benefits of cloud flexibility. 

Being in the cloud allows your team to connect to the system from any device with an internet connection and also streamlines system deployment so that you can scale in line with business growth. 

3. Replatform

Also known as lift and reshape, replatforming is a bit more complicated than rehosting. It’s an approach that’s best used for specifically suited apps rather than entire systems. This is because, when you replatform, you modify your legacy system to work in the cloud by rewriting its core architecture. 

Replatforming lowers cloud costs and adds convenience. This is a good approach if you want auto-scalability, agile DevOps processes, and other cloud-native features found with solutions like Amazon RDS for Oracle. 

4. Refactor

Legacy software refactoring involves modifying or reworking existing code. This can be done for an entire application or specific parts of it. The goal is to reduce technical debt and increase efficiencies without changing your app's functionality.

Through rewrites, you can enhance code readability and reduce code architecture complexity. Refactoring improves the performance of your slowed-down software and speeds up the process of bug discovery and elimination. 

It also gives you a chance to modify code so your application is fit for cloud migration. Like most modernization approaches, gaining the flexibility of a cloud-based environment is key.

5. Rearchitect

Monolithic and microservices architecture.

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As you might expect, rearchitecting entails altering and improving the code architecture of your legacy applications. Taking this approach may mean either modifying the application or adding new features. You can also discard outdated capabilities, meaning you could potentially be rewriting virtually all of the app’s code.

You can rearchitect your platform using microservices to make your core products cloud-ready. This method lets you keep the basic useability and functions of your legacy systems and gain the elasticity and scalability of cloud-native applications. 

6. Rebuild and redesign

Rebuilding and redesigning is a much bigger legacy modernization project than most other options. In essence, you map out the scope, specifications, and functions of your current application and then write a new app from scratch. 

For end users, the UX is essentially the same—but with critical modern aspects added. These could include being cloud-native or cloud-secure. Rebuilding and redesigning also lets you add new features, like API connections and automation. 

7. Replace

While many try to avoid replacement at all costs, sometimes it’s the only way to escape your legacy systems. In this case, you’ll need to take note of what your current system still excels at and what it’s lacking. 

This will give you a roadmap for the functionality you require. Then, you’ll need to consult with subject matter experts to define what your IT requirements are. When approaching a modern application vendor, be sure to identify what training, onboarding, and customer success channels are currently available. 

Remember, replacing legacy software will help you accomplish your goals—but only if everyone is on the same page and understands the new system. Only then can you expect organization-wide adoption that supports your business ambitions. 

Get maximum business efficiency by supporting your legacy systems with the best modernization approach

When you first set foot on the path to legacy system modernization, reaching your final destination may appear next to impossible. In fact, you might be tempted to take a step back and look for quick fixes for your growing problems. 

Don’t take the easy way out. Instead, break the modernization process down into solvable parts. Firstly, analyze your existing systems objectively. Be realistic about what you need for future growth. Next, conduct a search for solution options, with innovation as a priority. 

As long as you have legacy applications, they’ll always require additional maintenance and support (fully supporting your legacy software will likely require continuous migration). 

For a seamless transition and implementation, be sure to choose a modernization partner like OpenLegacy. Our services help enterprises build, automate, and manage legacy integration from one virtual space. 

There’s no better time than now to find a strategic partner and begin your digital transformation.

FAQs about plans to support legacy systems

What are three characteristics of legacy systems?

The term “legacy systems” covers a diverse range of applications and technologies. However, here are three common characteristics to look out for:

  • The software’s code, design, and architecture are outdated.
  • The system and infrastructure are no longer supported by the developer and/or are not properly documented.
  • The system is resistant to change, not cloud-native, and unable to use APIs.

What is an example of legacy modernization?

For an example of legacy modernization, let’s look at the banking sector. These organizations need to maintain a reliable digital banking experience to meet modern consumer expectations. As tech has evolved, most customers have adopted internet banking practices to meet their daily needs. 

This means banks need a modern and flexible system that allows for regular updates. Their systems must also provide optimal security, maintain compliance, and offer a seamless user experience.

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