April 21, 2021

Enterprise Applications Are Not Like a Fine Wine: Making the Case for Modernization

Steve Woodgate

Some things, like whiskeys, fine wines and art, get better with age. Unfortunately, the same thing can’t be said for IT systems—especially when it comes to legacy applications. 

That’s because the older application systems are, the more problematic they become. As these systems age, they make moving fast impossible, resolving issues difficult and troubleshooting expensive. They’re also more prone to having bugs, causing outages and wasting your IT team’s valuable time. It’s no surprise, then, to learn that 44% of CIOs believe complex legacy technologies are the chief barrier to digital transformation.

Today, as more and more businesses look to accelerate innovation and better serve customers, minimize disruptions and quickly respond to changing business demands, a modern application solution has become a vital component in any company’s digital transformation strategy.

We explore the common challenges that come with running legacy applications and what your business can expect when modernizing them—and all that benefits that come with it.

Top Challenges of Running Legacy Applications

Legacy applications no doubt served a specific business purpose when they were first deployed. The problem, however, is that over time they become liabilities—especially as organizations look to modernize their IT infrastructure and move to the cloud. Here are five common challenges associated with running legacy applications:

  • They accumulate technical debt. Over the years, legacy applications accrue technical debt, leading many IT teams to believe that migrating such complex systems would be extremely difficult, if not impossible.
  • They require specialized expertise to manage and maintain. Often, organizations find that there is only one application developer (or a few, at best) who understand how their legacy custom applications work, and what is required to manage and maintain them in different environments. If that person leaves the company or retires, the organization loses the institutional knowledge needed to manage the application estate. This is a huge problem when you consider that many legacy applications were built on older technologies that aren’t being used by new coders.
  • They are hard to update. Applications need to be managed, maintained and kept up-to-date with upgrades, regulation changes and new security processes. This places a heavy burden on internal teams to manage and keep these applications up and running—taking time away from other, higher-value projects they could be working on to drive innovation and support the business.
  • They are difficult and expensive to scale. Monolithic legacy applications are usually on-premises, which makes them difficult to scale. Scaling up or down to meet changing business demands is typically a complex and lengthy process that requires a significant investment in time, resources and budget. 
  • They introduce risk. Older systems are especially vulnerable to security threats, as many no longer receive patch updates to ensure integrity and minimize vulnerabilities.

Application Modernization 101

The challenges of legacy applications are clear, so what options do businesses have to solve them? For many, it starts with application modernization—the process of taking the structure of existing legacy software and modernizing it, so it can be maintained, extended, deployed and managed to meet a business’ current and future needs.

Depending on how many features need to be updated, the process can vary from being invasive—involving heavy re-coding—to being non-invasive (i.e., simply linking an app through a modern cloud service). Here are three common examples of application modernization:

  • Lift-and-shift modernization: In this approach, an existing legacy application is moved off of an on-premises data center and onto the cloud, with little or no change made to the application itself. In other words, the application stays the same, but the environment it’s running on is different—enabling the organization to take advantage of the cloud and its features. 
  • Refactoring applications: At a high level, the process of refactoring entails re-architecting applications for a cloud-native environment. While the lift-and-shift method offers the fastest and most cost-effective path to the cloud, refactoring for a cloud-native architecture eliminates the burden of legacy technology and processes, enables organizations to experience cloud-native benefits and represents the next level of business efficiency.
  • Custom application development (CAD): CAD brings legacy applications to life in the digital world by either rewriting them for a modern technology stack in the cloud or building new custom cloud-native applications. 

Business Benefits of Modernization

Regardless of which path to application modernization you choose to take, the end result will be the same: you’ll reduce the risks, complexity and technical debt associated with older applications while creating a more scalable, agile and cloud-ready business.

Here are some additional business benefits you’ll experience by modernizing your legacy applications:

  • Improved user engagement: Updated applications provide a better user experience, leading to higher productivity and satisfaction.
  • Faster operations: New systems work quicker, allowing for prompt responses and updates.
  • Scalability: Whereas legacy applications have bandwidth limitations, modernized applications can easily and quickly scale up and down on-demand as business requirements change, while growing with your company.
  • Global integration: Modernized applications provide a seamless experience for teams to work together, regardless of where they are in the world.
  • Cost savings: Cloud applications have more manageable expenses than legacy systems because you’re moving from the capital expenditure (CapEx) model to an operating expenditure (OpEx) model based on monthly consumption-based pricing. In the cloud, you pay for only what you use.
  • Increased revenue streams: Updated applications allow for expedited development cycles, so new services and application upgrades can be rolled out on a continuous basis, providing you with new ways to satisfy customers and increase profits.

The time to modernize your applications is now, and Navisite is here to help. Whether lift-and-shift, refactoring or CAD is in your plans, we have the expertise, experience and services portfolio to make your application modernization successful. To find out how Navisite can help you get started on your application modernization journey, contact us today.

About Steve Woodgate

Steve leads Navisite’s professional services team, delivering world-class IT consulting, implementation and cloud solutions that accelerate IT transformation and deliver business value to clients. He is a forward-thinking senior executive with more than 20 years of business consulting experience, working within complex IT environments across all industries.