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InfoQ Homepage Articles Five Things to Remember When Upgrading Your Legacy Solution

Five Things to Remember When Upgrading Your Legacy Solution

Key Takeaways

  • A legacy system doesn't necessarily have to be old. The biggest issue is that it is still employed, even though it frequently fails to meet critical demands and support core business operations.
  • Legacy frameworks can cost a company up to a 20% spending increment on its support.
  • Utilizing and maintaining legacy systems cause a huge decline in productivity and performance.
  • Data loss is a critical issue and one of the most frequent causes of concern during a legacy system upgrade; it should never be underestimated.
  • There is no generic modernization strategy. However, there are common approaches listed by Gartner, Deloitte and McKinsey.

What Is Legacy Software?

Nowadays, the lion’s share of organizations still relies on the existing infrastructure, combined with new technology. In other words, companies combine the latest software with outdated legacy systems. Sometimes they are gradually moving towards new infrastructure and keep the company operation running using old technology.

At the same time, many companies are still using outdated infrastructure. In IT, you can consider a system to be a legacy system when it is far beyond its prime yet is still being used. That could refer to an outdated piece of PC equipment, a PC program that is excessively old, or a bunch of processes that could be supplanted by considerably more effective ones in 2021. Sometimes, it's a blend of everything referenced above. Savannah Thieneman (Slingshot) suggests looking at the technology as if it were a car, stating

"No matter how innovative or reliable it is when you buy it, you will eventually have to replace it. Once a system has become a 'legacy' system, it becomes harder and more costly to maintain. To keep your system, data and company safe and in working condition, you need to stay ahead of your tech."

What Makes a Legacy Solution?

Gartner expects that each dollar put into advancing computerized business through 2020-2021 would call for companies spending something like three times that to modernize their legacy software portfolio. While it is a costly undertaking to refresh the legacy framework, modernizing it requires companies go through significant cash expenses. Capitalizing on your spent dollars requires you to carefully consider which programming modernization system is most beneficial for you.

Legacy software is the product that no longer meets current business needs since it is old for any one of these reasons:

  • It is not compatible with current programming and equipment
  • It is no longer supported by its developer
  • It is designed for an obsolete or outdated operating system
  • It has been heavily fixed since it has been passed from one developer to another
  • Engineers with expertise in such frameworks have moved to different technology stacks or have retired
  • It's too challenging (or even infeasible) to scale due to its old infrastructure
  • A whole pack of potential integration and compliance issues

In opposition to a common idea, a legacy framework does not necessarily be old. The most negative part of these frameworks is that they are still employed, even despite the fact that they frequently fail to meet critical demands and support core business operations as they are meant to. So, let’s face it - when there is legacy software you cannot replace, you should at least go for modernization.

"Legacy systems are not that safe," says Daniela Sawyer, Founder and Business Development Strategist of "This happens because, being the older technology, they are not usually supported by the company or the vendor who created it in the first place. Also, it lacks having regular updates and patches to maintain the pace with the modern world. So the new update should ensure the security aspect precisely."

How Much You Overpay to Maintain Your Legacy Software

Although it might appear as though you're saving costs when you don't spend money updating your digital product, that might cost you much more over the long haul. Based on the recent research on legacy software and its maintenance costs, ten of the public authority's legacy frameworks in the United States cost about $337 million per year to run and maintain.

Legacy frameworks can cost a company up to a 20% spending increment consistently for support. Thus, modernizing your legacy software may be a great option because of the risks and cost ramifications of keeping up with obsolete software.

Hidden Costs of Maintaining Legacy Systems

For the most part, utilizing and maintaining legacy systems is accompanied by a huge decline in productivity and performance. In any case, there are hidden costs under the overall umbrella of hindered performance.

Hefty IT Office

Working with outdated legacy systems can put a broad strain on the IT office and cripple proficiency. Since the system contains bugs, the entire work process will highlight finding and fixing these bugs instead of running long-haul mission-critical exercises. As time goes on, this could result in a breakdown in the company’s overall performance.

Database Update

Data is the central element of any process or operation inside the company. Legacy systems consistently lack a concentrated data preparing module. In fact, even those with data taking care of systems have a misaligned design. Likewise, most companies need to routinely spend a sizable amount of their budget on redesigning legacy databases.

Data Security

The lack of data security is particularly concerning as each state-of-the-art association handles customers' sensitive information. These systems go with a couple of hard-to-fix shortcomings, which could incite a data break or complete loss of data.

Regular Downtime

Legacy frameworks may often experience downtime, which could unleash devastation on divisions or cause financial losses to the organization. For example, if you are running a bookkeeping legacy system, a potential downtime during work hours could freeze cash inflow and keep your business from producing income.

"Older systems that are not being well maintained will fail to take advantage of improved methods of performing tasks. Or they’ll fail to take advantage of new hardware features that can improve the performance of their system," says Bob Bajoras, President of Art+Logic.

Customer Experience

There are examples where low-performing legacy software has resulted in disappointed clients and diminished money inflow for the organization. Maintaining great client experience is imperative to any organization's achievement in the present cutthroat market and, let’s face it, utilizing legacy systems is inconvenient to your business. Updating legacy systems is crucial to continue serving the needs of your customers.

Ifty Nasir, founder and CEO of Vestd, believes that "businesses and customer types evolve so being hamstrung by an old system can make or break your success. It's always a challenge because a great deal of your old data infrastructure will be built around your old system so it's crucial to engage specialists to ensure a smooth transition."

Missed Opportunities

State-of-the-art software engages your business development by including new provisions that lift cycle advancement, better information stream, examination, or even generally better operational productivity, which brings about income growth.

The most current software advancements revolve mainly around better reconciliation and interconnectivity between parts of the framework and more profound process automation. Missing them out means losing numerous assets you might have had and used more wisely.

Things To Remember When Upgrading Your Legacy System

Every legacy software update is unique, depending mainly on what your system is capable of at the moment and what you want it to be able to do.

At the same time, however, upgrading a legacy system is never an improvisation. So, below are the top five things to remember when upgrading your legacy solution.

1. Set the Goal

"When it comes to evolving technology, there are a few things to consider," states Ryan Dalal, CEO and founder of Merge PDF. "The initial stage should always be a thorough examination of the company's requirements. You can identify a suitable replacement by completely comprehending what a good system would entail and how a modern solution would provide the required flexibility, agility and inclusion."

While some stakeholders feel disappointed about the possibility of legacy software modernization and decide to leave things as they are, others can hardly wait to fabricate a completely new framework from the beginning. Neither one of the choices is an amazing approach without business "thinking" behind it. That is the reason each strong modernization starts with an examination of business objectives. For instance:

  • I'm arranging a consolidation with another organization, so I need to adjust my framework.
  • I need to interface my framework with the logical programming we've sent as of late, however, I don't know that reconciliation is conceivable.
  • The number of employees using my framework is expanding quickly, so I need to make it adaptable.
  • We burn through 80% of our IT spending plan on upkeep and just 20% on delivering greater value to our clients.

"The importance of keeping in mind that the type of app you're developing influences the technology you should select is out of the question," says Olivia, co-founder of CocoFax. She adds, "A medical app, for example, will require high security, while audio/video streaming and file sharing apps will need programming languages and frameworks that can handle high load."

2. Run Research

"What to consider? Do you even need a replacement for the system in question? First, check if there are more modern ways to solve the problem. We tend to repeat past behavior. Is this problem still relevant? These are the top questions executives should prioritize first," emphasizes Brian Pagano, Chief Catalyst and VP at Axway.

When you define your objectives, it's an ideal opportunity to check whether your framework supports your business plan or if a part of your framework keeps you from accomplishing your business objectives. This interaction can incorporate the accompanying advances:

  • Stack check. When your framework depends on obsolete software, your RD group ought to supplant it with exceptional options during execution.
  • Design survey. Regardless of whether the tech stack is important, a significant review of your framework is indispensable. An engineering survey will empower your tech specialists to see what portions of your framework work appropriately, which require modernization, and how various parts interrelate with each other.
  • Code survey. Old codebases commonly require careful survey and refactoring.
  • UI/UX configuration audit. Useability issues are normal for legacy. That is the reason a comprehensive UI/UX audit is essential as well.

3. Pick the Strategy

Following the previous stage, development teams need to remember that there’s no generic modernization strategy. So, based on the approaches listed by Gartner, Deloitte and McKinsey, they are recommended to choose one or multiple approaches among the following:


Applying minimal changes, then moving the legacy system to another platform makes it possible to keep the existing code structure. At the same time, replatforming makes it possible to host the software on a less costly OS or platform. Top replatforming benefits:

  • Not too many features and functions to be modernized
  • A partial move of the business to the cloud
  • Measurable financial savings in the company.


The second software modernization strategy suggests moving a more considerable amount of data from the legacy system to the graphical interface. As a result, even old and outdated systems may look like new ones that can offer some up-to-date UI features. Without producing new technology, this approach can save you much, generally on the licensing cost. Refacing is great when:

  • Your team has strong skills in the old technology and is ready to go for ongoing improvements
  • Your management team is tied to the legacy software
  • While the software itself is outdated, its tech base is at some point modern (for example, J2EE/Java)


Rebuilding means creating the company’s legacy system from the ground up. The only dilemma here is whether to recreate the whole system or remake only the core parts of the software portfolio. That would be an extreme approach, but still provides the highest ROI and the best competitive advantage for several years in the future. Go for rebuilding your legacy system when:

  • You can no longer support changes using the present system
  • Your underlying technology is no longer supported
  • Your current system and its technology are too pricey to license

Extend and Migrate

Among the others, extending and migrating your legacy software is often the most well-balanced and standardized improvement method. Doing so, you can combine the lowest risk (and, therefore, cost of failure) and benefit from a gradual transition to new components. Go for extending and migrating when:

  • You are going to replace the system from batch to real-time
  • You just need to modernize the old data with the RDMS system
  • You have not too many components driving your current business process

4. Take Care of Your Data

When building a new system from scratch instead of modernizing the existing legacy software, you are going to deal with huge amounts of archived data. This is when your development team should carefully migrate everything to a new system. Take care of data consistency between both systems. Ensure you have a well-tested and reliable data migration strategy. Don’t skimp on spending enough time to try everything in action. The best option is to keep the old system running and quit only when you make sure that its updated version has everything set up and running as planned.

Data loss is a critical issue and one of the most frequent causes of concern during a legacy system upgrade, it should be never underestimated. Among the worst potential drawbacks, the loss of business data often results in direct revenue loss and different reputational hazards, therefore having a well-thought action plan for data migration before getting started with migration is imperative.

5. Document Everything

The legacy documentation is really complex. At the same time, however, in the ideal scenario, it should cover each and every corner of all your features and updates. Documenting every element consistently when building a new solution makes it possible to prepare your system for seamless operation in the future. Just remember: when you document everything, your code is much easier to maintain, extend and change. That’s it.

"Data loss occurs when information is accessible in the legacy system but not in the target scheme following the transfer procedure," says Jacob Villa, co-founder and marketing director of School Authority. He adds that, "the largest risk in data migration is information loss. The expense of repairing data loss and company costs contribute to the economic and reputational damage caused by faulty information. A reasonable assessment of migration data loss can be made by comparing the number of documents in the old system and the target scheme. It is not always possible to match the number of legacy records with the number of destination system records; business rules may exist to reject documents depending on specific attributes. And the number of documents in the legacy system should equal the number of documents rejected plus the number of documents in the destination scheme when applying such criteria."

6. Consider Human Factors

Apart from the technical complexity, upgrading an IT system and getting users onboard will be not be something that happens overnight. Both people and systems are more likely to resist digital transformation rather than embrace the change. Meaning you will need to establish at least a basic level of understanding and acceptance among the employees some time before the adoption starts. Doing so, chances are that everything ends up with a successful and, even more importantly, more predictable implementation.

7. Prevent Internal Disruption

A system upgrade often comes with migration from one system to the newer one. Depending on the preset timeframes, this usually takes months to complete. Acting proactively to minimize potential disruption and improve internal collaboration is the best way to go when digital transformation is underway. Eventually, this can help you turn everything into a smooth and fully controllable journey.

The Bottom Line

After all, the maxim "a legacy system transformation is a big deal" is true. Moreover, it can be a huge deal for many companies, because organizations across the globe keep automating and digitizing their daily operations that result in revenue increase by approximately 15% and productivity by about a half in just three years. And it’s up to you — either follow suit and gain a leg up on the competition. Or fail.

About the Author

Vlad Vahromovs is the CEO of Intellectsoft, the technology partner of Fortune 500 companies including EY, Nestle, and Jaguar. An accomplished tech executive with over 15 years of leadership experience delivering cutting-edge solutions to industry giants, Vlad holds modern courses degrees from Stanford and Erasmus University Rotterdam.

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