Many IT leaders still believe that legacy system modernization costs billions and takes decades. Moving the entire system to a modern tech stack entails an additional financial investment spread over a lengthy period. So, leaders quickly disregard it as a company-wide concern. While all legacy system modernization approaches are distinctive with varying degrees of complexity and benefits involved, many companies opt for software they have relied on for many years trying to save costs. 

However, keeping a legacy system becomes a costly affair over time. Aging platforms turn to be more vulnerable to cyberattacks and less effective and agile to propel your progressive business initiatives. For instance, in 2019, the federal government spent about 80 percent of the $90 billion IT budget solely on legacy software maintenance. 

So, what are we getting at with all this? An investment increase in software support is one of the main reasons to consider IT modernization. To help you avoid that, we will share some early signs that your business-critical software is gradually becoming outdated. 

When is the right moment for your legacy system modernization? 

Detecting the first signs that point out the necessity of legacy system optimization is crucial to initiate a cost-efficient modernization project. Unfortunately, many organizations turn to transformation only in case of emergency, and as such incur additional costs. So, how can you stop the right moment slipping by you? Below we highlight the key indicators that will tell you when a legacy system starts to hinder your progress. 

Why legacy system optimization is necessary

1. Difficult to deploy changes 

Introducing new functionality is vital to business growth and success. Companies are expected to meet user expectations, adapt to dynamic markets, and outmaneuver their competitors to stay in the game. So, if your engineers struggle with adding new features or introducing changes quickly and seamlessly without jeopardizing the entire system, this is a sure sign of legacy software. Such situations often result from outdated tech stacks or overcomplicated monolith architecture. 

What to do? 

Based on our experience, in this case, we recommend you to rearchitect your aging application. Rearchitecting is one of the legacy system modernization approaches, which implies optimizing app architecture with code rewriting to enhance performance and facilitate the introduction of new features. 

You can achieve it by breaking a complex, rigid monolith into microservices. Microservice-based software solutions offer greater flexibility and less risk since your engineers can implement new features, deploy updates, adopt a new tech stack, or make changes without affecting the entire application. Legacy system modernization with microservices has its benefits and challenges, yet it is the most intuitive option that preserves the same business functionality while providing up-to-date architecture and coding techniques. 

2. Difficult to scale 

Companies integrate hundreds of tools, external libraries, components, and applications with the existing system to run business processes more efficiently. It is a standard and inevitable step for growing organizations. However, when industries and markets strive for innovation to meet customer expectations, there is a risk of falling behind because obsolete software may fail to support modern solutions. 

There are many cutting-edge technologies and critical new features your company may implement to drive innovations like IoT, predictive analytics, intelligent process automation, and more. However, is your legacy system compatible with them? If the answer is “no”, then legacy system modernization is the only option. 

What to do? 

Data and functionality of outdated systems are often extremely valuable to a company, so replacing them is not an option. That is where the API-based approach to legacy software modernization can help you address the business-critical system gaps. 

We consider encapsulation or API-led connectivity an effective way to connect aging systems with the latest technologies securely. By joining services with RESTful APIs, you can benefit from new tech solutions, leveraging your software functionality and data in more robust ways. APIs may help to compose data into processes and deliver the modern-day user experience that customers expect. Legacy system modernization with an API-first approach will streamline business workflows and improve scalability. Finally, it helps to deal with increasing digital demand without redesigning the entire technology structure. 

3. Difficult to use 

The goal of any business software product is to maximize employees’ productivity. So, you should pay attention if you notice: 

  • Slow system processing. Obsolete technology starts to operate slower, and it can take forever to complete standard operations. Speed issues also often lead to software freezing and glitches. So, if your employees frequently experience app crashes or wait over five minutes to download a file, it is a sign of outdated software. 
  • UI and usability challenges. Many legacy systems are difficult to use due to technology age and lack of updates. Complex, outdated UI fails to deliver easy navigation and intuitive usage, leading to uncertainty. So, your staff may waste time figuring out how to use these systems and face unnecessary hurdles in getting their jobs done. 

This results in low employee productivity that negatively affects your business in terms of revenue, ROI, and work quality, not to mention customer satisfaction, employee retention, and involvement in company progress. 

Legacy system impact on employees

What to do? 

Issues with system processing and usability can signify the software is either obsolete or of poor quality. While software QA and testing can solve the quality issue, obsolete technology requires optimization or full-scale redevelopment. Only by doing this will you be able to boost performance, design new interfaces adhering to modern UI standards, and streamline business workflows. 

Legacy system modernization through rehosting to a cloud environment and some minor changes to user interfaces are fast and easy ways to ensure better performance and user experiences your employees and customers demand. However, it’s important to note that sticking to legacy code and monolith architecture will prevent you from reaping all the benefits of cloud computing

The alternative is complete redevelopment aimed at rewriting the legacy business software from scratch. By doing this, you can meet modern cloud-native requirements and adopt the best practices, such as DevSecOps, microservices, and API-led integration. This is the most time, cost, and labor-intensive approach to legacy system optimization, but the benefits it delivers make it worth your while. From cost reduction and increased productivity to faster releases, on-demand scalability, resilient systems, and more. 

4. Difficult to update 

Software providers roll out updates regularly, enhancing usability, functionality, or security of their products. Ignoring them can lead to slow system performance, high vulnerability, and incompatibility with critical components. 

Plus, if the vendor ends support for the software your company is using, you will be left entirely helpless and forced to tackle issues on your own. No support means no more bug fixes, no new features, and most importantly no security updates. You can hardly conform to current business continuity standards and demand for non-disruptive operation in this situation. 

What to do? 

First, it’s important to remain strategic in software updates and patch management. It requires thorough planning, regular data backups, and continuous testing to ensure that quality standards are met. 

If you are in a situation where a provider has discontinued services for a product you are using, re-platforming may be your only viable option. This legacy systems modernization method allows you to move the critical components to another platform with minimum changes and preserve the existing functionality. By doing so, you will effortlessly migrate to an up-to-date platform environment while benefiting from better performance and lower infrastructure costs. 

5. Difficult to protect 

Cybersecurity best practices have evolved significantly in recent years, and the software in place may fail to keep up with those advancements. For example, your system is six times more vulnerable to malware if you are using unsupported Windows XP instead of the latest Windows 10. 

Dozens of apps and systems that seem to be functioning fine may comprise dangerous vulnerabilities. Unfortunately, such situations are not rare. Your company may be exposed to cyberattacks and data breaches due to obsolete security protocols, lack of real-time security monitoring and encryption processes, and many other critical areas that your systems contain. IBM revealed that the average cost of a data breach in 2021 is $4.24 million, a record 17-year high. 

Beyond this, legacy code may add even more financial risks if you operate under strict compliant requirements like HIPPA, PCI DSS, and others. Outdated software may fail to support modern security measures like role-based access control, multi-factor authentication, or encryption that is considered a standard requirement for any tool nowadays. 

What to do? 

Migration to a cloud environment can help you ensure solid system protection. Software modernization with cloud computing offers better system resilience and compliance, as well as regular updates, 24/7 monitoring, and support from a provider. 

Legacy system modernization to the cloud

However, don’t expect that cloud infrastructure will solve all your security flaws. It is important to start with an end-to-end IT audit of your legacy applications to identify and document all vulnerabilities and inefficiencies. Additionally, even after the migration we still advise you to continue working on and improving a comprehensive security strategy and a safety policy. 

Future proof your business 

It is costly and time-consuming to stay relevant in an increasingly digital world. However, today it is more expensive not to. Legacy system optimization is an effective approach that can propel your business growth in the long run. 

Since system modernization is a complex project requiring thought-out legacy system modernization strategies and extensive IT experience, joining forces with an experienced IT service provider may help you avoid unnecessary costs and common pitfalls. TEAM International can reduce the burden on your company and make your transformation seamless without disrupting business operations. Have you detected one of the signs listed above? Contact our specialists today to prevent emergencies that may cost you billions.